Late Night Open Thread: Toxic Backlash (Second Time As Farce)

The 1980s I remember were a mean, dishonest decade. People of color, then women, then not-strictly-heterosexual people had fought during the previous many years to make inroads on the “natural” assumption of White Male Hegemony, and — with the help of scientifically-minded nerds — made enough progress that the White Men and the ones who parasitized loved them felt besieged. The 80s were a noisy, hypercolored backlash that did its best to assert that White Men were Capitalism (rich, powerful, entitled) and Capitalism was, in every way, the Best of all possible worlds…

The backlash was good for illicit drug distributors, weapons dealers, synthetic fabric manufacturers, megachurch christianist marketeers, and the tiny coterie of media people “celebrating” the greed-is-good Gordon Gekko / Oliver North sellers of junk finance and overpowered weaponry. But then all the bubbles popped, and those of us who preferred to live outside a media phantasy of the 50s (1950s, 1850s, 1650s, depending on whether we’re discussing sociology, economics, or philosophy) kept right on pushing forward.

I have to believe that the current Trump-centered unpleasantness is an idiot child’s recreation of the culture Lord Smallgloves remembers from the days when he was young and (comparatively) rich and fit and in his milieu. Catherine Rampell, in the Washington Post:

Ever since he unveiled it on the campaign trail, President Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” has prompted an obvious question: When exactly was this mythical period when America was last great?

At last we know the answer: the 1980s.

When it comes to aesthetics or general world outlook, the Greed Is Good decade was clearly Trump’s formative period.

Wanna look classy? Slather your residence in gold, spangle it with chandeliers. Wanna convince strangers that you’re important? Pretend to be on the cover of Time magazine, still the greatest honor a person can achieve…

But Trump’s ’80s ethos is more than merely cosmetic. It affects his, and his party’s, most significant policies as well.

Take the GOP economic agenda, which has not been updated in (at least) 30 years.

Supply-siders still run the show, championing tax cuts as a growth elixir while conveniently ignoring their track record. All Trump and his cronies seem to remember is that there was this one time when Ronald Reagan cut taxes, and then . . . the economy grew.

They seem to have missed the role that monetary policy and the business cycle played in that mid-’80s growth spurt. Not to mention all the other changes in tax rates over the past century, in both directions, that reveal no discernible relationship between tax levels and long-term growth…

Somehow the Party of Ideas stopped coming up with them circa, oh, 1987. The question is: Why?

Well, arguably, this is what happens when you’re no longer advised by experts, of any political persuasion.

One core function of social science research is to measure and document consequences of policies, both intended and unintended. And not surprisingly, it turns out we’ve learned a lot in the past few decades about drugs, crime, poverty, the economy, international relations and all manner of other issues.

Over several decades, Republicans have become increasingly hostile to expertise, a hostility that blossomed into outright denunciation last year. Rather than consulting people who’ve researched any of this stuff, or even read any of that research, Trump prefers to craft policy based on things he vaguely remembers reading, perhaps in a tabloid, some 30 years ago…

The backlash didn’t last back then (although it sure seemed like it was gonna go on forever) and it won’t last this time, either. Our job as the “Immoral Minority” (I still have my pinback, somewhere!) is to keep pushing forward, remembering that the caterpillar can’t return to its cocoon.

ETA: Speaking of toxic reminders of the 1980s…



Shameless Self-Promotion

I’ve been quoted recently in articles at The Verge and the Daily Beast. Both have to do with the chemical weapons being used in Syria.

There is a lot of disinformation being floated by Russia and its allies about both the Skripal poisoning and the Douma attack. Russia and Syria are now preventing international inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons from visiting the Douma site and taking samples. Russia has, of course, complained that proper samples haven’t been taken so nothing is proved about who used the chemical weapons. But no, you can’t come and take samples. That’s only one of their tactics. They throw multiple garbage stories out to confuse the issue. They’re doing it in the United Nations and conflate the Skripal poisoning and the Douma attack (spoiler: the UK did them both).

It’s a lot of work to refute them all, but Adam Rawnsley at the Daily Beast decided that this one was being used generally enough that it deserved debunking. His article also appears at Bellingcat, with different pictures.

Update (already!): Here’s a long thread that investigated Russian disinformation on the Skripal poisoning.



Theme-for-the-Day Open Thread: DO NOT CONGRATULATE



Late Night [FacePalm] Open Thread: How the NYTimes Writes About Donald Trump

‘Quaint Folk Customs Among Neighborhood Banditti’. Feel like I should’ve noticed this sooner. For all its global-paper-of-record pretensions, the NYTimes can be a very parochial rag:

With apologies to Tolstoy, happy families may all be alike, but the Gotti family has long been unhappy in its own particular fashion. For nearly half a century, that has involved the serial ordeal of men in the Mafia clan being sent to federal prison.

On Wednesday, John J. Gotti, the grandson of the infamous Gambino family don who shares his name, was sentenced to five years in prison, following in the footsteps of two of his uncles, two great-uncles and both grandfathers. For three generations, members of the gangland dynasty have been imprisoned for crimes that have included shaking down construction sites, murdering a mob boss at a steakhouse and trying to extort the action-movie hero Steven Seagal.

The crimes that led this latest Gotti scion to be sent away were, according to the government, also entangled in the business that has occupied the family almost since the start of the Civil Rights era. Last June, Mr. Gotti, now 24, pleaded guilty to torching the car of an unwitting motorist who made the mistake of cutting off an aging Bonnano family figure on Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach, Queens. Mr. Gotti also admitted that two weeks after the road-rage episode, he and two associates — presenting a note that said they had a bomb — robbed $6,000 from a bank in Maspeth, Queens.

His sentencing, in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, had the feeling of a familiar family dinner as several Gotti parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles converged on the eighth-floor courtroom, kissing each other’s cheeks and showing their support for the defendant. John A. Gotti, the son of the former boss (who was serving a life sentence for murder when he died in prison in 2002), embraced one of the court sketch artists with genuine affection, telling his younger relatives that the woman had not only covered his trials (plural), but had also covered “grandpa’s…

As long as the Gotti clan aren’t shaking down the NYTimes newsroom, shooting up hot new hipster-Brooklyn dining spots, trying to extort Lena Dunham, or torching the Uber carrying NYTimes employees from the newsroom to the latest chic outboro restaurant, it’s all fun mobster-movie escapades to the Timesmen assigning these stories.

And while Donald Trump was just another mobbed-up Queens arriviste, descending his golden escalator to brag about his vanity candidacy, the NYTimes simply could not take him seriously.

By the time Trump had broken out of his “amusing local gangster” role, either the people running the NYTimes were incapable of noticing the change… or cowed by the possibility that they’d been mistaken all along.

Of course, this puts them in the same position as the entire Republican party, so they’ve got that consolation. For what it’s worth.



Open Thread: On the Lighter (Than Air) Side…

Trump is setting a bad example for the next generation of pampered Republican idiots…

Just this month, the president and campus coordinator for Turning Point USA at Kent State University announced her resignation, claiming the national organisation had lied about the incident to the press and left her to clean up the fallout on her own.

“As of right now, I am in disbelief at how I went from being so upbeat, enthusiastic, and passionate about this organisation to being disgusted, frustrated, and embarrassed to have invested my entire senior year into an organisation founded by a college dropout who hires some of the most incompetent, lazy, and downright dishonest people I have ever encountered,” wrote former president Kaitlin Bennett in her scathing letter of resignation…

According to Ms Bennett, the event itself went swimmingly. Other students thought the person wearing the diaper was “so funny,” she said, that they even stopped to point and laugh. At a speaking engagement the next day, Mr Kirk even congratulated her personally on the chapter’s activism…

Ms Bennett said she tried to defend herself, lashing out at the other groups in Facebook posts. That’s when she got a call from Turning Point’s chief operational officer, Tyler Bowyer.

During their conversation, Ms Bennet says Mr Bowyer told her that the diaper incident was inappropriate because it “gave the left a lot of ammo to take these pictures and make memes out of them”.

“It’s not funny,” Ms Bennet said the COO told her. “Nothing about this is funny. Now every time Charlie [Kirk] tweets they tweet back pictures of him in a diaper.”…

.

Because Donny Dollhand’s a spoilt 70-year-old baby who probably soils himself whenever a car backfires in his vicinity…



General Repub Malfeasance Open Thread: I’m *Not* Gonna Start Saying Nice Things About Mitt Romney

He *looks* the part of a TV-drama senator, and is not sufficiently interested in human interaction to have committed sexual battery! Yay for our side! Since Navarro is not an idiot, I have to assume this is sarcasm on her part.

It is useful, because a Romney run — and victory — could set an example for other congressional Republicans to follow when it comes to acting as a check on Trump’s many excesses, from his dangerous international bluster, to his self-dealing and corruption, to his contempt for norms and the rule of law. If they don’t follow that example, their enabling of these Trump excesses will be thrown into sharper relief.

That is, this might be the case, if Romney is true to his own past statements about Trump. Let’s not let this get memory-holed: In his big March 2016 speech against Trump, Romney flatly and unequivocally declared Trump unfit to serve as president. Will Romney reiterate this sentiment, when he’s running for Senate?…

Spoiler alert from a Masshole, Mr. Sargent: Nope! Willard will fold like a cheap lawn chair, because that’s his signature legislative tactic. Although he will look very stateman-like as he makes his excuses for letting Trump and the Oval Office Trumplodytes do whatever they damned well choose.



Wednesday Evening Open Thread: “All the signs in the Russia probe point to Jared Kushner”

I’m petty enough to be pleased that Jill Abramson is feeling maybe just a little revenged on her NYTimes ex-colleagues. From her new post at the Guardian:

Game of Trumps is about to get really bloody. With special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moving ever closer to President Trump himself, it looks like someone inside the family is about to be sacrificed.

Consider this chronology. On 23 November it was widely reported that Flynn had informed the Trump legal team that he could no longer discuss the case with them. The end of cooperation with Trump surely signalled the beginning of cooperation with Mueller. Two days later the New York Times and Washington Post carried nearly identical stories about Jared Kushner’s waning influence.

The Times story had three bylines, including Maggie Haberman, the president’s go-to reporter. It concluded: “Mr Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who had been in seemingly every meeting and every photograph, has lately disappeared from public view and, according to some colleagues, taken on a more limited role behind the scenes.”…

Someone high up in the White House seemed anxious for the word to spread. The Times story was attributed, in part, to three “advisers to the president”. Parker’s included an earlier interview with Kushner and came “from interviews with Kushner himself, as well as 12 senior administration officials, aides, outside advisers and confidants, some speaking on condition of anonymity to offer a more candid assessment”…

Apart from schadenfreude, what’s on the agenda for the evening?