Terrifying Read: “‘Nothing on this page is real’”

It is, in truth, one heckuva story. Neither of the main characters have anything but the best of intentions, and yet… Kudos to the Washington Post for demonstrating “How lies become truth in online America“:

NORTH WATERBORO, Maine — The only light in the house came from the glow of three computer monitors, and Christopher Blair, 46, sat down at a keyboard and started to type. His wife had left for work and his children were on their way to school, but waiting online was his other community, an unreality where nothing was exactly as it seemed. He logged onto his website and began to invent his first news story of the day…

He had launched his new website on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign as a practical joke among friends — a political satire site started by Blair and a few other liberal bloggers who wanted to make fun of what they considered to be extremist ideas spreading throughout the far right. In the last two years on his page, America’s Last Line of Defense, Blair had made up stories about California instituting sharia, former president Bill Clinton becoming a serial killer, undocumented immigrants defacing Mount Rushmore, and former president Barack Obama dodging the Vietnam draft when he was 9. “Share if you’re outraged!” his posts often read, and thousands of people on Facebook had clicked “like” and then “share,” most of whom did not recognize his posts as satire. Instead, Blair’s page had become one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55.
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Repub Horrorshow Open Thread: A Clown Car Full of Pennywises

The entire Republican party has devolved into an authoritarian cult where aging white men vow to destroy the world to protect the purity of their essence. And now everybody within earshot of the national news knows it!

Mr. Charles P. Pierce, “I am living in the middle of a pornographic Allen Drury novel—Advise And Lack Of Consent:

Anybody who tells you that they know what happens next is lying. So far, El Caudillo Del Mar-A-Lago is making brave noises. Senator Dianne Feinstein wants all hearings into the nomination postponed until an FBI investigation into this mess is concluded but, at the moment, there’s no stomach for what an FBI investigation might reveal. Senator Mitch McConnell, who warned the White House that Kavanaugh would be a tough sell, knew about the Ramirez allegations a week ago, so it is fair to assume that, whatever else may be out there, he already knows it, and yet he told the Values Voters Summit last week that he was going to “plow on through” with the nomination, which is a very unfortunate metaphor in this context. In addition, McConnell’s response to the news that the latest allegations were going to come up was to try and put the nomination into hyperdrive. However, McConnell is also pragmatist enough to know when to cut bait. If the Republicans decide to pull this nomination, it has to happen early in the week. Waiting until Wednesday—or, worse, until Thursday, when Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford are scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee—is completely untenable…

Fox News reporter:

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Texas Brawlin’ Open Thread: Betting on Beto

You know the Repubs are worried when they start the blatant ratfvcking this early. Per the Dallas News:

A person masquerading as a volunteer for Beto O’Rourke apparently sent text messages to voters Wednesday to give the impression the Democrat’s Senate campaign was seeking help to take “undocumented immigrants” to the polls.

A spokesman for O’Rourke’s campaign attributed the texts to “an impostor,” the Austin American-Statesman reported, and said campaign officials were looking into what happened.

“Hi, it’s Patsy here w/Beto for Texas,” the text said. “Our records indicate that you’re a supporter. We are in search of volunteers to help transport undocumented immigrants to polling booths so that they will be able [sic] vote. Would you be able to support this grassroots effort?”

Word of the messages quickly circulated on social media, prompting the campaign to follow up with another text message explaining that the impostor had signed on as a volunteer and then sent the unauthorized messages…

Even Chris ‘the Mad Bitcher’ Cillizza is excited — “Yes, the Texas Senate race is for real”:

Cillizza: It’s post-Labor Day. Is this race as close as most polling suggests?

[Texas Tribune CEO Evan] Smith:
Well, it’s close, and more importantly it’s closer than nearly every general election race in Texas has been for several decades. There is general agreement among pollsters and political observers that O’Rourke is trailing by mid-high single digits. By contrast, the Democrat running for governor is behind by twice that amount or more. O’Rourke has raised more money than Cruz and has more cash on hand, meaning can he get his name ID up and his message out in a very expensive state. He is already getting tons of free media. But Texas is a red state, and that’s the mountain he has to scale. The odds are still against him, though they’ve improved…

Cillizza: Cruz seems to be worried. They have started attacking Beto over being in a band, wearing a dress and a past (known) DUI. Is this a sudden panic?
Smith: They’re definitely sounding the alarm. Not sure it’s panic quite yet. O’Rourke is still relatively unknown, so they’re trying to define him in character terms before he can define himself. Oldest trick in the book. They’re betting that his younger, wilder days will be a turn-off. Hmm, where have I heard that phrase before? Oh, right, George W. Bush. Who won the presidency. For this strategy to be successful, you’d have to believe there are voters who are toying with voting for O’Rourke but won’t because HE WAS IN A PUNK ROCK BAND. I’m not sure this is a “Footloose” election cycle…

Goal Thermometer

Open Thread: This Is the Dumbest Timeline

… At least, it’s not only dumber than I ever imagined, it’s dumber than I could have imagined. And I’m supposed to have a pretty good imagination!

Context for the top pic:

Of course, when its “Dear Leader” is that dumb-stubborn, the Base is going to double down…
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Open Thread: Omarosa Manigault-Newman & the G(r)ift That Keeps On Giving

Question: Would Trump’s “base” — especially those Media Village Idiots who treat Trump as the Clickbait King of All Time — believe a reality-show star when they didn’t believe the Democrats, the FBI, et al?



Yeah, you don’t hire Peter Thiel’s defamation lawyer to prove you’re innocent, you hire him to announce you plan on bankrupting your opponent.

Wonder who’s paying Mr. Harder, because he knows as well as the rest of us that Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills…

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.