News-of-the-Weird Read: “Robert Mercer’s Secret Adventure as a New Mexico Cop”

It would seem that what the Petit Trianon fantasy was to pre-Revolutionary France’s aristocracy, the Hollywood myth of the Gunslingin’ Wild West is to our modern kakistocrats. (Also: The Mercers, they be cray-cray.) Zachary Mider, for Bloomberg, explains:

Robert Mercer probably would have flown into Roswell. From there—1,800 miles from home—he would’ve traveled south through the high desert plains of southeast New Mexico, flat as a tortilla, past abandoned homesteads and irrigation machines moving in slow circles.

His phone reception would’ve gotten spotty when he turned left off Highway 285. He would’ve seen the bare limbs of a pecan orchard and a graveyard decked in plastic flowers. At the town hall in Lake Arthur, population 433, he would’ve met Police Chief William Norwood, the department’s sole full-time employee, a barrel-chested man with two spare rifle magazines on his belt. There, Mercer, the fabulously wealthy computer scientist who helped bankroll the election of President Donald Trump, would’ve reported for duty as a volunteer policeman.

If Mercer’s trips to Lake Arthur resembled my recent visit, he might’ve climbed into the passenger seat of Norwood’s police truck, whose black-and-white paint job is fading in the wind-whipped sand. He and Norwood might’ve rolled past the house where someone reported spotting a stolen car—a false alarm, it turns out. While monitoring radio chatter, the plutocrat and the chief might have jawed about the latest news in a town so small it has no stores: the recent pursuit of a motorist across half the county; the record of the high school’s six-man football team; reports of stolen pecans. Pulling up a chair at an Italian restaurant in nearby Hagerman, the chief might’ve urged Mercer to try the lasagna.

For most of the past six years, as Mercer became one of the country’s political kingmakers, he was also periodically policing Lake Arthur, according to the department. If he followed Norwood’s protocols—and Norwood insists no volunteers get special treatment—he would’ve patrolled at least six days a year. He would’ve paid for travel and room and board, and supplied his own body armor and weapon…

I was surprised when I first heard about Mercer’s sojourns in Lake Arthur, but then I’m used to his surprises. During the two and a half years I’ve covered Mercer, I’ve come to think of him as a hard-right version of that guy in the beer commercials, the Most Interesting Man in the World. There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of incredible-but-true Mercer stories, including his pioneering research that begat Google Translate, his funding of a stockpile of human urine in the Oregon mountains, his million-dollar model train set, and his habit of whistling constantly, even during work meetings. The common threads in these stories are a fierce intelligence, a wide-ranging curiosity, and an utter indifference to the judgment of others. The story of his adventures in Lake Arthur, which hasn’t been previously reported, adds yet another strand. It shows just how far a man of means will go to get something he can’t buy: the right to carry a concealed firearm anywhere in America.
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Wednesday Morning Open Thread: FaceBorked

(Drew Sheneman via

I considered using the subtitle “Evil Is Overdetermined”. Here’s a roundup of the latest thumbnails ICYMA (In Case You Missed Any… )

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Late Night Pavlov’s Dogs Open Thread: They’ll Believe What They WANNA Believe

Epistemic closure down at the blunt, encrusted end of the stick…

I actually posted an earlier version of this late last night, but quickly pulled it back, deciding the topic needed more thought. Today, Margaret Sullivan at the Washington Post published a piece well worth reading. Sullivan is a professional ombudsman (IIRC, the one who got fired when the NYTimes decided it no longer needed the pretense of objectivity). The sliming of Parkland students shows the spreading stain of media polarization”:

“David Hogg Is A High School Bully,” was the headline of a blog post Erickson wrote soon after the shooting, referring to one of the student survivors who has become a leader in pushing for gun-control legislation. He didn’t mean Hogg was looting the lockers of his schoolmates, but, as the sub-headline claimed, “He is using his status as victim to inappropriately and ridiculously attack people while going unchallenged.”

This week, Erickson made it worse: He tweeted to his mass following what turned out to be an utter falsehood, based on an article on the RedState website speculating that Hogg may not have even been at school the day of the shooting.

He urged his audience to believe it, writing this “isn’t a fake news Gateway Pundit story.”

When that report was thoroughly debunked and RedState recanted, Erickson deleted his original tweet and posted an “update.” He did not apologize.

“I spread misinformation from someone that was credible,” Erickson told me by phone, praising the reporting of RedState writer Sarah Rumpf.

“But I didn’t double down on it, and that’s the difference between someone responsible and someone who’s not responsible.”..

Erickson’s actions matter because, despite his often extreme views, he’s seen as relatively moderate — someone who gets to offer platitudes about “healing” in the New York Times and whose comments get picked up — not as if they were the ravings of an Alex Jones, but as if he were a legitimate conservative opinion maker.

What we’re seeing here is a spreading stain, in which conspiracy mongering from the likes of Infowars and, yes, Gateway Pundit is adopted by some elements of the formerly mainstream right and peddled to a receptive audience softened up for decades by Fox News.

That kind of thing can happen on the extreme left, too, but not as regularly and not as virulently. (And it’s a truism that corrections and “updates” everywhere fail to get the visibility of the original misinformation.)

There seems to be no floor of indecency that we agree to stay above.

As Charlie Warzel, who covers “information wars” for BuzzFeed News, put it recently: Extreme partisanship — pro-Trump media as well as parts of the far left — “is not about intellectual courage. It’s about winning.”…

For the record, the original Redstate poster did apologize, in a long tweet thread…

… And Erickson really *is* the problem here; she’s a poster on a notoriously RWNJ blog; he’s now a Semi-Very-Serious Media Figure, who’s made his name out of clambering over the bones of left-wing “victims”…
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Russiagate Open Thread: Forget the Sex Worker — Who Was Selling Trump’s “Access”?

Cash Rules EveryONE Around Him… dolla-dolla, y’all, get th’ money:

For Elliott Broidy, Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign represented an unparalleled political and business opportunity.

An investor and defense contractor, Mr. Broidy became a top fund-raiser for Mr. Trump’s campaign when most elite Republican donors were keeping their distance, and Mr. Trump in turn overlooked the lingering whiff of scandal from Mr. Broidy’s 2009 guilty plea in a pension fund bribery case.

After Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Broidy quickly capitalized, marketing his Trump connections to politicians and governments around the world, including some with unsavory records, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times. Mr. Broidy suggested to clients and prospective customers of his Virginia-based defense contracting company, Circinus, that he could broker meetings with Mr. Trump, his administration and congressional allies.

Mr. Broidy’s ability to leverage his political connections to boost his business illuminates how Mr. Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing has spawned a new breed of access peddling in the swamp he vowed to drain.

Mr. Broidy offered tickets to V.I.P. inauguration events, including a candlelight dinner attended by Mr. Trump, to a Congolese strongman accused of funding a lavish lifestyle with public resources. He helped arrange a meeting with Republican senators and offered a trip to Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private Florida resort, for an Angolan politician. And he arranged an invitation to a party at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel for a Romanian parliamentarian facing corruption charges, who posted a photograph with the president on Facebook…

As with so many other political conventions, Mr. Trump has upended the traditional system of access to the president, among the most prized chits in Washington. That is partly because of lax vetting that has allowed largely unfettered access to Mr. Trump and his White House by loyalists, friends and hangers-on with their own policy agendas or business interests.

But it is also because few of Washington’s established lobbyists have close connections to the president. In their place, a new class of insider has emerged, able to lobby the president directly on behalf of clients or business partners, an uncommon opportunity in prior administrations, when lobbyists focused on winning support from lawmakers or regulators…

So, expect a lot of words to be spewed tomorrow about how “our” poor, naive businessman-president allowed himself to be taken advantage of by sweet-talking Beltway lobbyists. Because this will presumably sell better to Trump’s in-every-sense-Base than the alternate understanding that Donny Dollhands has never not been for sale to the highest bidder, no minimum reserve.

Open Thread: Unplugging from FaceBorg, or Changing Your Settings?

Not a FaceBook user myself, because my brain chemistry already compels me to waste too much time trying to get to the end of the internet (and, yes, I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t ‘needed’ to set up an account for my job or my social life). So I can’t test Mr. Fallows’ advice here, but I figured it might be useful…

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Interesting Read: “What Hope Hicks Knows”

Trump’s White House assistants are progressing to the “working on their best wide-eyed innocence” stage of self-defence. Perhaps because professional character assassin Olivia Nuzzi was the first reporter to notice the importance of Hicks to the inner circle, hers is the Big Get, for NYMag:

On the morning of Wednesday, February 28, Hope Hicks arrived at the White House just after 8 a.m. Within a week, it would be snowing in Washington, D.C., but she was dressed for spring in a bouquet of purple, yellow, and blue, as if willing the end of winter with her miniskirt. She held on to her iPhone in the West Wing, in violation of a rule that normally diverted it to a locker secured by a shiny silver key, then retreated to her office, a first-floor broom closet that in the past had been assigned to presidential secretaries.

When the administration began 13 months before, competition among some staffers had manifested as a struggle for real estate here; Omarosa Manigault, a perennial reality-TV contestant, had gone so far as to steal a room that had been designated for Anthony Scaramucci, “the Mooch,” a hedge-fund millionaire obsessed with astrology and the word fuck, because of its status-confirming glimpse of the Washington Monument. Both of them were eventually fired, along with a procession of others who failed to maneuver the chaotic status hierarchy President Trump seemed to cultivate out of boredom.

A view of duck-tour buses circling the mall wasn’t needed for Hicks to know her standing. What her office lacked in flair it made up for in proximity. While others were left wondering what the president was thinking, Hicks could often hear him shouting, even with her door closed. “Hope!” he’d scream. “Hopey!” “Hopester!” “Get in here!”

Many requests were mundane. “He doesn’t write anything down,” one source close to the White House told me. “He doesn’t type, he dictates. ‘Take this down, take this down: Trump: richest man on Earth.’” A second source who meets regularly with the president told me that Hicks acted almost as an embodiment of the faculties the Trump lacked — like memory. “He’ll be talking, and then right in the middle he’ll be like, ‘Hope, what was that … thing?’ ” When the name of a senator or congressman or journalist came up, Trump would prompt Hicks to provide a history of their interactions, asking, “Do we like him?” “And she fucking remembers!” (Trump has said his own memory is “one of the greatest memories of all time.”) “She’s the only person he trusts,” the second source continued. “He doesn’t trust any men and never has. He doesn’t like men, you see. He has no male friends. I was just with one of them the other day, someone who’s described as one of his closest friends, and he doesn’t know him very well. But a small number of women, including his longtime assistant back in New York, he really listens to them — especially if he’s not banging them. Because, like a lot of men but more so, Trump really does compartmentalize the sex and the emotional part.”…
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Open Thread: #ReleasetheMcCabeMemos ?