Sunday, November 19, 2017


Deplorable whisperer Salena Zito wonders why everyone hasn't heard the awesome news:
Glen Dale, W. Va. — Bad news travels fast. Good news, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to travel at all.

Last weekend in Beijing, as part of his 12-day trip to Asia, President Trump announced that the US and China had signed an $83.7 billion memorandum of understanding to create a number of petrochemical projects in West Virginia over the next 20 years.

If the agreement holds tight, it is an economic game changer for the state.

And yet, speaking to the locals here, you wouldn’t even know it had happened.
Much of the blame, she believes, falls on the mainstream media:
“I am surprised I heard nothing about it on the national news, nor in my local paper and newscasts,” said Jerald Stephens, 67, a West Virginia native and union rep, who has been a keen observer of local politics for as long as he can remember.

The BBC and CNN covered the news in their business sections, while The New York Times picked up a short story by The Associated Press on the deal. The stories’ headlines were muted; their placement low-key....

Stephens finds the lack of coverage telling. “I can guarantee you if anyone not named Trump had made this kind of deal for West Virginia, it would have at least been a panel discussion or two on a cable news channel.”

Once again, the media is missing a story that matters to the American people outside the liberal echo chamber.
I found plenty of stories about this -- and one reason it's not getting massive headlines is that the deal isn't really a deal at all. Here's one response to this and other U.S.-China deals that were announced during Trump's trip, which were valued at a total of $250 billion:
“I am somewhat skeptical of such a large number,” Alex Wolf, senior emerging markets economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments, told the Reuters Global Markets Forum....

“I suspect they might be primarily MOUs (memorandum of understandings) instead of actual contracts and the actual contract amount may be substantially less.”
In fact, a memorandum of understanding is exactly what was signed -- and for West Virginia, nothing is guaranteed:
Governor Jim Justice and state commerce secretary Woody Thrasher held a press conference Monday to outline how the deal came about, but didn’t provide specifics about the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, between Chinese industry leaders and West Virginia government officials.

Thrasher revealed last week that early projects would include two natural gas-fired power plants, likely in Harrison and Brooke counties, with construction potentially starting in the next six to eight months. He and officials from the Shenhua Group, who are part of the state-owned China Energy company, have agreed at this point to not release additional projects or the MOU, which is understood to not be legally binding.

“I don't want to get into the specifics of the projects," said Thrasher. "There's a whole wide series of projects. Can I guarantee you that they're going to spend 83 billion dollars in 20 years? No. But what I can guarantee you is: the governor has directed me to do everything within my power to facilitate these projects going forward.”
So even the governor isn't prepared to say that it will really be an $83 billion deal. And no official will identify the forthcoming projects apart from two that will "potentially" begin this year.

As a Bloomberg story noted,
Without a contractual obligation, there’s no guarantee developments agreed to in an memorandum will get funded and built.

"At the end of the day what really counts is contracts," Jason Feer, head of business intelligence at Poten & Partners Inc. in Houston, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "An MoU is usually an agreement to continue talking."
And this deserves huge front-page headlines, Salena?


There are no Clintons holding public office now, and it's unlikely there will be any in the future unless Chelsea or one of her kids decides to run. So there's not much going on in America that Maureen Dowd can blame on Bill or Hillary. In desperation, she declares that while predatory behavior directed against women is a big news story right now, it wouldn't have been if Hillary had been elected president. Therefore, we can blame Hillary and Bill counterfactually for the continued suppression of this story that didn't actually happen.

Dowd writes:
Would the war against preying on women be blazing so fiercely had Hillary Clinton been elected?

When I interviewed women in Hollywood about the ugly Harvey Weinstein revelations in The Times and The New Yorker, they told me that feelings of frustration and disgust at having an accused predator in the White House instead of the first woman president had helped give the story velocity.
Dowd is saying that Donald Trump's election gave impetus to the Weinstein story (though we don't know whether the anonymous women she quotes know anything about the victims who spoke out or their motives). But in effect, Dowd frames this in her lead sentence as "Fortunately, Hillary lost." Dowd never misses an opportunity to say that the Clintons are bad for America.

And if you think I'm hairsplitting, note that Dowd goes on to write this:
It is also interesting to speculate: If Hillary were in the Oval, would some women have failed to summon the courage to tell their Weinstein horror stories because the producer was also a power behind the Clinton throne? As Janice Min, the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, told me, when Barack Obama stepped off a stage and into Weinstein’s arms for a big hug after giving a $400,000 speech as an ex-president in the spring, it sent a signal that the ogre was in a protected magic circle.
Dowd contradicts herself in two sentences. She says that Obama's embrace of Weinstein earlier this year demonstrated that Weinstein is "in a protected magic circle" -- and yet victims went public against Weinstein this year, so the message sent by that embrace wasn't heeded. Yes, Obama was no longer president, and neither was Hillary Clinton. But the entertainment industry is centered in the Democratic states of California and New York. The reporters who brought Weinstein down wrote for New York publications. The stories ran anyway. So why should we believe that fear of Democratic power brokers would have silenced the women who spoke out, or the journalists who wrote about them?

Dowd writes:
And, finally, would Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other liberals still be saying in the past few days that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency over his own sexual misdeeds if he now occupied the first lady’s quarters and reigned over a potent Clinton political machine?
After suggesting that the reckoning wouldn't have happened if the election had gone a different way, Dowd shifts gears and imagines that we would have had a big wave of harassment and assault stories even with Hillary in the White House. That's certainly what I believe. After Bill Cosby's many rapes were brought to light, and after the press revisited the story of Woody Allen's alleged sexual assault on a child, journalists were going to pursue Weinstein, regardless of how the election turned out.

I'll give Dowd this much: I agree that Democrats would be reluctant to attack Bill Clinton for this if he were the First Gentleman. But Republicans wouldn't.

Hillary Clinton would have taken office under siege. Congressional investigations aimed at the discovery of high crimes and misdemeanors would already be under way. Then this would have been thrown into the mix. For openers, there'd be demands to take away Bill's offices in the White House and to withhold funds for any of his official activities. There'd be new congressional hearings and investigations. Decades-old sexual assault allegations would probably supersede Benghazi and Uranium One as priority issues in the halls of Congress and on Fox News. I voted for Hillary, but I'm glad we're not relitigating all this under those circumstances.

In any case, I don't believe Hillary's election would have prevented the discussion of powerful men's sex crimes. I don't believe the Clintons wield that kind of power. But I'm not Maureen Dowd.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


In The New York Times right now, there's a story about President Trump's decision to weigh in on the Al Franken sexual harassment/assault story, even through Trump has faced allegations of his own sexual misconduct from sixteen women. So why isn't Trump facing a reckoning now? After Harvey Weinstein and all the others, why aren't we focusing on Trump's behavior?

I think the layout of the Times story explains it:

This is what we talk about when we talk about Trump's sexual behavior: the bus. We talk about Trump discussing sexual assault in that Access Hollywood video. We focus on his words.

We watched that clip over and over. It dominated the news cycle for days. It's lodged in our memories. But there's nothing equally memorable from Trump's accusers. There was never a day when the news cycle was dominated by the story of someone accusing Trump of harassment or assault.

With Roy Moore, we focused first on horrifying stories from accusers. An accuser's story directed our attention to Al Franken. We learned about the behavior of Weinstein, James Toback, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and others from news reports of appalling behavior. The men's version of events was never the first story, or the most compelling one.

But does it matter? Isn't Trump confessing to horrible behavior? Not if you want to believe in him. If you do, you just tell yourself it was "locker room talk" and shrug it off as empty boasting. Even if you believe it, it doesn't have the impact of victims' accounts.

There are other reasons we haven't been able to focus on Trump's sexual behavior -- his ability to hijack the news cycle with other forms of aberrant behavior, his position of power, the fact that Republicans protect their own. But the main reason is that we've never had a day when the news was dominated by one or more riveting, persuasive accounts of Trump's predatory activity.

We can hope that the press will revisit the old stories and give us a day like that, but the press likes news that's new, so a moment like that probably won't come unless a new and believable accuser emerges with a terrible story. Or maybe we'll pay attention if a harassment lawsuit against Trump finally goes to trial. But until one of those things happens, Trump is going to skate on this.

Friday, November 17, 2017


In a better world, this would be a major embarrassment to the GOP:
If you're one of the lucky Americans who owns a private jet, don't fret. Republicans have your back—in the form of tax breaks.

The new Senate tax bill will give those who own or lease private planes breaks on the amount they pay to companies for maintenance, storage, fueling and even when they want to hire pilots and a crew onboard.
We can criticize this, but as soon as we do, the response will be that we're attacking ... workers. Anyone remember the yacht tax of the early 1990s?
The 10 percent excise tax on expensive boats was imposed [in 1990] as a way to generate new revenue from the rich. The tax, say those in the boating industry, began having an immediate impact on sales as buyers adopted a wait-and-see attitude.
Sob stories began appearing in the press:
Last year, some 220 workers built boats at Pearson Yachts Corp. in Portsmouth, R.I. This year, there are 50 workers left.

On Maryland's Eastern Shore, Harrison Yacht Sales in Graysonville has trimmed its 95 employees to eight.

Those job cuts are among an estimated 19,000 blue-collar marine jobs lost throughout the nation this year. The culprit, boat industry officials say: a 10-percent federal "luxury tax" that went into effect in January on new pleasure boats that cost more than $100,000.

Created to hit the blue-blazer crowd, the tax has instead slammed into the blue-collar worker like a summer squall, according to boatyard owners and officials who track the 450,000-worker industry.
The tax went into effect on September 30, 1990, and by early January 1991 a New York Times letter writer claimed that the tax had literally reduced luxury boat sales to zero while causing more than 100,000 layoffs in the boat industry.

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush called for the tax to be repealed. Repeal happened in 1993.

Right-wingers often say that it's dangerous to give new government benefits to the poor and middle class, because all of us shiftless bastards will just get used to them, and we'll raise hell if anyone tries to take them way. Now, watch that happen if this private jet tax break goes through. We'll be told we can't possibly repeal it ... because of the workers. That won't be the real reason.


The Republican tax bill, in both its House and Senate versions, is awful:
... the Senate tax-cut bill ... lavishes generous permanent tax breaks on corporations, while modest tax cuts for the middle class would vanish into thin air after 2025. Millionaires would enjoy average tax cuts of $5,580 in 2027, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, at which point families earning less than $75,000 a year would pay more taxes.

... it calls for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate for most people to have health insurance. This would leave 13 million people without insurance and drive up premiums for many others who are already struggling to afford coverage, all in the interest of reducing spending by $338 billion so Republican lawmakers can cut taxes for big businesses....

And if that weren’t bad enough, this bill, along with a similar measure that the House passed on Thursday with lightning speed, would, because of a 2010 budget law, trigger automatic cuts to Medicare and other important programs that low-income and middle-class Americans depend on.
It's wildly unpopular:
American voters disapprove 52 - 25 percent of the Republican tax plan....

The wealthy would mainly benefit from this tax plan, 61 percent of American voters say, while 24 percent say the middle class will mainly benefit and 6 percent say low-income people would mainly benefit.

American voters say 59 - 33 percent that the Republican tax plan favors the rich at the expense of the middle class.

Only 16 percent of American voters say the Republican tax plan will reduce their taxes, while 35 percent of voters say it will increase their taxes and 36 percent say it won't have much impact on their taxes.

Only 36 percent of voters believe the GOP tax plan will lead to an increase in jobs and economic growth, while 52 percent do not believe it.
And yet even observers who believe Democrats could benefit from a wave election in 2018 think that might not be enough to win them the House (and a Senate majority would be even harder to attain).

We're now living in an era of post-popularity democracy. Republicans simply believe, with good reason, that they don't need popular proposals in order to retain power. They believe they can survive extraordinarily unpopular proposals, because gerrymandering, vote suppression, disciplined propaganda efforts by Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media, and massive amounts of money from the plutocrats who like what they propose will get them through.

At this point, it almost doesn't matter what they do, because their voters care only about who they are -- or, rather, who they aren't. They're not Democrats. Democrats are evil. Republican voters will put up with anything from their party's elected officials as long as those officials make clear that they're defying the wishes of the hated Democrats.

Why does the Republican Party survive? Why would passing this tax bill not be, as many observers believe, political suicide? Let's take a look at an opinion piece that seems unrelated -- Peggy Noonan's denunciation of Roy Moore.

Her headline is "Alabama Women, Say No to Roy Moore." She's against Moore -- but it takes her a while to say so. First she has to run through an indictment of Democrats and liberals that takes up the majority of her column inches:
Alabama has its back up, or at least its Republicans and conservatives do, and it’s understandable. They don’t like when Northerners and liberals and people in Washington tell them who their senator should be. They don’t like when reporters from outside come down and ask questions and turn over rocks looking for what’s crawling on the underside. There’s always an underside. Man is made from crooked timber.

People from the Deep South feel culturally patronized. This is because they are. Reporters from outside don’t admire or relate to them; when a Washington Post journalist presented as fact, in a 1993 news report, that evangelical Christians are “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command,” you know he was thinking of Southern evangelicals. Hollywood has long cast Southerners as witless and brutish in films from “Inherit the Wind” to “Deliverance” and “Mississippi Burning.”

Politically, Southern conservatives have long decried a double standard. Ted Kennedy spent much of his life as a somewhat inebriated roué whose actions caused the death of a young woman, but now we’re instructed to call him the Lion of the Senate. Bill Clinton was worse than Roy Moore. Mr. Clinton was accused of rape, harassment and exposing himself, but his party backed him and he kept the presidency. Democratic Sen. Al Franken was credibly accused Thursday, by an anchor at KABC radio in Los Angeles, of groping and harassing her on a USO tour in 2006. When she resisted him, Leeann Tweeden wrote, “Franken repaid me with petty insults,” and took an obscene photo of her on the way home, as she slept. Will the liberal media dig into Mr. Franken as they have dug into Mr. Moore? Or is he too good a source and friend?
This is South-specific, but a variation on it is believed in the Midwest and the interior West, in upstate New York, in non-coastal parts of California, and in a lot of places in between. Liberal elitists hate you. Democrats get away with murder. The other guys are evil, therefore we surely ought to continue administering collective punishment on them, even though Moore's opponent, Doug Jones, isn't a Yankee and hasn't, as far as anyone knows, sexually assaulted or harassed anyone.

Several more paragraphs ensue in which Noonan assails Jones for being pro-choice. And only then do we get (I'm paraphrasing) Nevertheless, Alabama women should rise up and demand a new Republican candidate in place of Roy Moore.

Noonan writes,
If Roy Moore had a long and demonstrated history of randomly attacking children with a baseball bat, or if the FBI announced it had found in his possession a stash of child porn, Moore supporters would never back him.
But they would. You've given them all the reasons, Peggy. They would just deny the allegations, because Democrats are evil.

When you work people up into this state of rage, they'll accept anything that comes from the enemies of their enemies. Including a tax bill that punishes them the way the GOP bill does.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


This poll from Fox seems like good news:
[Doug] Jones is up by eight points over [Roy] Moore among Alabama likely voters, 50 percent vs. 42 percent, in a Fox News Poll conducted Monday through Wednesday evenings. His lead is outside the poll’s margin of sampling error (±3.5 percentage points).
But I don't believe it, because I looked at the numbers.

First of all, the party breakdown in the poll is 48% Republican (40% solid GOP, 8% leaners) and 40% Democratic (33% solid, 9% leaners). That's in a state that Donald Trump won 62%-34%. A 2016 Gallup survey of party leanings doesn't have quite the skew of the election results, but it does show Alabama as 51.8% Republican, 34.8% Democratic -- a 17-point gap, as opposed to 8 in the Fox survey.

Even more suspicious: The poll asks about Barack Obama -- and he has a 52% favorable rating. Seriously? In Alabama? (Trump is only at 49%. By contrast, the latest Morning Consult state-by-state survey shows Trump with a 59% approval rating in Alabama.)

I'm not prepared to say that Fox is doing the GOP establishment's bidding by publishing a fake or skewed poll that shows Moore trailing. It's also possible that Jones supporters were more eager to respond to the survey, or that some Moore supporters are reluctant to acknowledge their leanings to a stranger.

In any case, I don't buy this. I still believe Moore will win.


I think Leeann Tweeden's story about her interaction with Al Franken on a 2006 USO tour is quite plausible, especially accompanied by that photo:
Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’....

On the day of the show Franken and I were alone backstage going over our lines one last time. He said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him. Then he said it again. I said something like, ‘Relax Al, this isn’t SNL...we don’t need to rehearse the kiss.’

He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth.

I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time....

The tour wrapped and on Christmas Eve we began the 36-hour trip home to L.A. After 2 weeks of grueling travel and performing I was exhausted. When our C-17 cargo plane took off from Afghanistan I immediately fell asleep, even though I was still wearing my flak vest and Kevlar helmet.

It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:

Al is a great senator, and I think his better self is a decent guy who respects women. But he's also this guy:
The Minnesota Democrat's first Senate campaign, in 2008, was damaged by revelations that he had made a joke in a Saturday Night Live writer's room meeting about raping the television journalist Lesley Stahl.

“I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then when Lesley is passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her," Franken said, according to a 1995 article in New York magazine. "Or ‘That’s why you never see Lesley until February. Or, ‘When she passes out. I put her in various positions and take pictures of her.’”

In his 2017 book, Franken wrote that he "wasn't sorry" for the joke, which he called "stupid." "I was just doing my job," he said.
He's apologized for what he did to Tweeden:
" ... I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what's more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.

“Coming from the world of comedy, I've told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren't the point at all. It's the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come to terms with that...."
It's good that Franken and Louis C.K. have owned up to their behavior, but I suspect that it's not very difficult for them. Self-loathing comes easy for comics. It's a standard comic posture.

I'll miss Franken, but he should resign. All the sexual creeps in Congress should face a reckoning and resign -- Democrats and Republicans. I'll lay down the marker now: They should all resign, even the Democrats who might be in seats that Republicans could pick up.

But if we're making calculations about impact, we should note that according to Minnesota law, the governor -- Democrat Mark Dayton -- would choose Franken's replacement, and a new election would be held in November 2018. Donald Trump is quite unpopular in Minnesota. In all likelihood, a Democrat would hold this seat.

Beyond that, if Franken stays, every Alabama Republican voter who's on the fence about Roy Moore receives a Get Out of Moral Quandary Free card. Hey, the lib harasser gets to stay, so hell yeah, I'm voting for Roy Moore.

I still think a Doug Jones victory in Alabama is a long shot, though people who are smarter than I am think it's possible. But it won't be possible if Franken hangs on. That's not the main reason he should go. But he should go.


The Washington Post's James Hohmann reports that President Trump got bad marks from women yesterday in a North Carolina focus group conducted by pollster Peter Hart.
Republican women who voted for President Trump in North Carolina said during a focus group Wednesday night that they are embarrassed by and exasperated with him.

-- Annie Anthony, 56, voted for Trump last year because she opposes abortion and did not like how Hillary Clinton handled Benghazi. Now she fears that Trump is marching us toward war with North Korea. She describes the first 10 months of his presidency as “chaotic, stressful and an uphill battle.”

“While I thought his ideas appealed to me, since he’s been in there he’s embarrassed me by his behavior,” said Anthony, a divorced college graduate who runs a local nonprofit volunteer center and drives for Uber to make ends meet. “He behaves so unpresidential. The words he uses. The tweeting.... I can’t imagine how they let him build a country club — let alone be in one. Because adults don’t behave that way ...”
Emily Bell, a 32-year-old occupational therapist who voted for Trump, described him as rude and stressful. “I feel like he told people that he had all these big ideas and big plans, and it just seems to kind of roll to something else. It’s like nothing is ever accomplished,” said Bell, who is married and has a postgraduate degree....

-- Melissa Hight, a 62-year-old married retiree who has a postgraduate degree and voted for Trump, used the word “antagonistic” to describe him. “I had high hopes, but he just goes about things in a way that gets everybody’s back up against the wall,” she lamented. “He doesn’t facilitate working together. He comes out with these grandiose ideas, and there’s no follow through. It’s a lot of talk. ... He hasn’t acted presidential at all...."
My first question is: What did you expect? As president he's acting exactly the way he acted as a candidate. But they all overlooked that. They focused on the big promises and ignored the infantile behavior. Or they processed the fact that he was infantile but assumed -- or hoped -- that he'd discipline himself in office.

These people just don't like the status quo, so they're willing to roll the dice on someone who says what they want to hear, and they'll ignore evidence that they're voting for someone who's not fit to be in office. A man in the focus group says of Trump:
“He’s kind of a loose cannon — I don’t like that — but what we’ve had for years and years — not just Obama, but leading up to that — they weren’t getting the job done in terms of leading the country. So he’s still better than the alternative of a career politician.”
And despite her disillusionment with Trump, Annie Anthony seems ready to vote for more loose cannons in the future:
Looking ahead to the midterms, she offered an ominous warning for the GOP: “I think the swamp is still full. I might be voting to drain that swamp some more.”
Which explains, I guess, why Roy Moore still has a good shot at winning that Alabama Senate race. (I don't believe there's really a National Republican Senatorial Committee poll showing Moore down by 12. The GOP establishment wants him gone, and the NRSC won't even name the pollster or reveal any of the poll's details.) Moore is a loose cannon who's telling a lot of Alabamans what they want to hear, so they hope he'll use his power for what they consider good. The voters like bad boys, but they hope they aren't really bad.

Which leads me to what Rich Lowry says about Moore and Steve Bannon:
Roy Moore is the Steve Bannon project in a nutshell.

For the former Trump operative, the Alabama Senate candidate’s tattered credibility is a feature, not a bug. If Moore had well-considered political and legal views, good judgment and a sterling reputation, he’d almost by definition be part of the establishment that Bannon so loathes. Since Moore has none of those things, he’s nearly an ideal representative of the Bannon insurgency.
I think Bannon is overdoing it, but I understand why he thinks tainted candidates are good bets. (Other Bannon recruits include Erik Prince, the disgraced former Blackwater head, for a Wyoming Senate seat, and ex-felon Michael Grimm for a House seat from Staten Island.) Bannon thinks right-leaning voters will be attracted to the sense of danger while they naively trust that they're not really risking much.

They really might continue to vote that way. Which is why I'm generally rooting for Mitch McConnell's candidates in the 2018 GOP primaries. I think establishment figures will do a lot worse in the general election than the bad boys.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


A new poll from Boston's WBUR suggests that Elizabeth Warren is in excellent shape as she approaches the 2018 midterms.
Warren is viewed favorably by 55 percent of Massachusetts voters, according to the survey, and the Democrat has advantages of at least 23 percentage points when faced off individually against her four declared challengers....
And she certainly seems to have the right message.
Most voters polled said a candidate who made addressing the cost of health care a major priority would make them much more likely to back the candidate, while 42 percent of voters said a candidate in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act would make them much less likely to get their support.

Nearly half of survey respondents -- 48 percent — also said that if a Senate candidate made standing up to President Trump a major priority, it would make them much more likely to back the candidate.

Just 27 percent of Massachusetts voters view the Republican president favorably, compared with 66 percent who have an unfavorable view of him.
She's doing a lot better than she was right around Inauguration Day, when only 44% of respondents in a WBUR poll thought she deserved reelection, while 46% believed that Massachusetts should "give someone else a chance."

So how's she doing against potential challengers?
In hypothetical match-ups, Warren leads Geoff Diehl, 58 percent to 32 percent; Shiva Ayyadurai, 58-27; Beth Lindstrom, 56-33; and John Kingston, 57-33.
But that comes with an asterisk:
(When the survey went into the field, Ayyadurai was running in the Republican primary, with the other three candidates; he now plans to run as an independent.)
That means that Ayyadurai -- a troll who pals around with the alt-right -- will be in the race all the way to November. I told you about this guy a few months ago. He was born in India and has said, "I think only a real Indian can defeat a fake Indian." A real class act, Ayyadurai sent Warren a DNA kit for her birthday.

Ayyadurai also claims he invented email, and dismisses those who say email existed a decade before he says he invented it, even if they're scientists who were actual users of what they quite sensibly regard as early email. Ayyadurai sues news organizations that dispute his version of the facts -- he won a $750,000 settlement from Gawker in a suit the L.A. Times says was financed by Peter Thiel, and Thiel won't comment on reports that he financed a similar Ayyadurai lawsuit against Techdirt.

But Thiel isn't Ayyadurai's only skeezy acquaintance:
... Ayyadurai has made numerous appearances on the conspiracy outlet Infowars; he had also appeared on the outlet before declaring his candidacy. On Infowars, Ayyadurai has received glowing praise from the outlet’s prominent personalities. In one interview, host Alex Jones called Ayyadurai “the example of what we want in Congress, in the presidency, in the statehouses.”

His campaign has also granted one-on-one interviews with fringe right-wing websites and media figures such as Lucian Wintrich, White House correspondent for The Gateway Pundit....

The Rebel Media’s Gavin McInnes, a media personality who leads an Alt-Right fight club called the “Proud Boys” and has used his platform to spread misogynistic rhetoric, also got an interview with Ayyadurai.... Ayyadurai granted an exclusive interview to the pro-Trump website Breitbart.... Right-wing blogger Cassandra Fairbanks and conspiracy peddling internet troll Jack Posobiec have also given Ayyadurai their endorsements.
Ayyadurai ... picked up an early endorsement from former Red Sox pitcher and Breitbart News personality Curt Schilling, who is ideologically in the same camp as the alt-right.... “As of today, from where I sit, you’re my choice for Senator of the state of Mass. in 2018 and it’s not even close,” Schilling tweeted. “#Fauxcahauntas.”

... Increasingly, he's closed ranks with the leaders of these political misfits, finding allies including Mike Cernovich.... “People who meet Shiva are excited,” Cernovich tells me. “He is charismatic and inspirational. He needs to do a video message every day because the more people see him, the more they like him. He’s fearless and committed.” Jeff Giesea, one of the minds behind the social media army that helped elect Trump, also cohosted Ayyadurai’s political coming-out party.
It's a Murderers' Row of right-wing trolling.

Ayyadurai has also been in talks with the Mercers, hoping they'll throw some money his way.

Ayyadurai won't beat Warren -- if anything, he'll split the anti-Warren vote in November with the Republican nominee and help her to a bigger victory. But he'll be memifying opposition to Warren for months -- how effectively I can't say.

Mainstream national Republicans want to rough Warren up before 2020. They'll be working in sync with the alt-right.


Politico tells us that President Trump has a "wrenching" decision to make about the Alabama Senate race:
White House officials plan to convene a meeting to talk through their options soon, and Trump is widely expected to address the predicament publicly when he returns from abroad. In order for the president to get involved, some aides to the president say, he would need an airtight plan that limits his political exposure to any fallout.
I don't understand. Republicans love Trump. What's the potential "fallout" for him?
It’s a vexing call for Trump. If he tries to pressure Moore out of the race, as some people close to the White House expect him to do, there’s no guarantee that the candidate will oblige.
I know Trump didn't endorse Moore in the primary, but Moore and Trump are both Republicans and Trump is the president of the United States. Not only is Trump the president, he's admired and loved by voters in his party. At least that's what we're told. It ought to be Moore -- a man who hold no political office right now -- who's in the vulnerable position. You'd think it would be risky for him to defy a man whose approval rating in his state is nearly 60%. And yet Moore probably would defy him.
Intervening in a race against the candidate backed by conservative activists could also be seen as at odds with Trump’s own insurgent campaign in 2016.
But it's Trump. It's supposedly his movement. The slogans are his: Drain the swamp. Make America great again. Why wouldn't he be given leeway to define what his movement does and doesn't stand for?

But that's the problem for Trump: It really isn't his movement.
“The establishment did everything they could to destroy Trump, and we the people stood with him. It would be very disappointing to see Trump believe these lies and turn on a rock-solid conservative like Roy Moore,” said GOP state Rep. Ed Henry.
What Henry is saying here is what Steve Bannon has said: that "we the [wingnut] people" define what the Trump movement is, and true believers can say at any time that Trump is disloyal to Trumpism. Trump may have altered the contours of conservatism -- it's now protectionist and pro-Russia -- but his ability to shape conservatism only goes so far. He can't say that Moore has to go. Backing Moore is a #MAGA litmus test right now. Even Trump has to pass it.


This week Frank Rich wrote about America once Trump is out of office. Rich believes that Trumpism will survive Trump because it predates Trump -- Rich says that we can see Trumpism in the audience for Father Coughlin's anti-FDR radio shows in the 1930s, and especially in George Wallace's campaigns of the 1960s and 1970s.
What we should be worrying about ... is the remarkable staying power of the American voters who put [Trump and Mike Pence] in office. They’re in for the long game no matter the fate of the current administration. Trumpism predates Trump and Pence by decades and is a more powerful, enduring, and scary force than either of them.
Rich believes the Trumpists will still be angry once Trump is gone, and will continue to look for a jackbooted thug to lead them:
The toxic anger that defines Trumpism — a rage at America’s cultural and economic elites in both political parties as well as at minorities and immigrants — will only grow darker and fiercer once its namesake leaves office, no matter how he does so. If Trump departs involuntarily, his followers will elevate him to martyrdom as the victim of a coup perpetrated by the scoundrels of “fake news” and “the swamp.” If Trump serves one or two full terms, his base will still be livid because he will not have bestowed the lavish gifts he promised, from a Rust Belt manufacturing comeback to a border wall. His voters won’t pin these failures on Trump but on the same swamp creatures they’ll hold responsible if he’s run out of office. They’re already blaming the cratering of “repeal and replace” and other broken Trump promises on what Bannon and his allies call “the McConnell-industrial complex.”
I disagree with Rich on only one point: I think these voters might ultimately blame Trump. It will take them years to become disillusioned with him -- I hope to God it won't require two terms -- but I think they might eventually conclude that he was a "swamp creature," or was too easily coopted by the swamp. They'll conclude that what they need is a real Make America Great Again conservative, someone who'll fight, not like that cuck Donald Trump. I shudder to think who'll be nominated by the GOP under those circumstances. Maybe it'll be Roy Moore.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


There's been yet another mass shooting, this time in California:
Five people are dead — including the suspect — in a mass shooting at a school some 15 miles southwest of Red Bluff, where at least another 10 people have been hospitalized, some of them children.

Tehama County Undersheriff Phil Johnston confirmed two children were also shot and wounded, but said children were not among the dead.

"It's a very sad day for us in Tehama County," said a deputy, who was visibly shaken.

The gunman, who still hasn't been identified, shot both inside and outside Rancho Tehama Elementary School, Johnston said.
I can't even be horrified anymore. It's like looking out the window and noticing that it's raining. It just happens now, and there are no available means to stop it.

A Free Republic commenter notices a pattern in recent mass shootings:
I grew up 1/2 hour south of there.

Conservative counties.

Interesting patterns... shootups happening in these and against these types of folks in defenseless positions.
Yup -- a country music show in Vegas, a church in Sutherland Springs, and now this. Conservative America. (Today's shooting took place in Tehama County, which is part of California's District 1, where Trump won by nearly 20 points.)

So what is this Freeper's theory about why shootings are taking place in conservative America?
I am certain connections exist, they either haven’t been found or deep state is turning a blind eye.
Yeah, that must be it. It must be that the Deep State is ignoring problems in Conservistan. It can't possibly be because everybody in Conservistan has a freaking gun, or multiple guns, including the rageoholics, and nobody dares to try to disarm those rageoholics, because FREEDOM.

And what do you know, that appears to be the case once again:
The Rancho Tehama Reserve — a subdivision home to about 1,485 people — is described on its website as a “quiet private country community” located 12 miles west of Interstate 5 between Red Bluff and Corning. The community is a place “where people are friendly and the pace is relaxed," the website reads.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it was 86.3 percent white in 2010 and had a poverty rate of 43 percent.

Resident Brian Flint said he got a call in the morning that his roommate was injured and that his truck had been stolen. It turned out his neighbor was the gunman, Flint said.

“The crazy thing is that the neighbor has been shooting a lot of bullets lately, hundreds of rounds, large magazines,” Flint said. “We made it aware that this guy is crazy and he’s been threatening us.”

Living near the gunman was "hell," Flint said, and the man was a known felon who often harassed him and his neighbors.
Of course, no one managed to disarm this ticking time bomb, who, if he was a felon, shouldn't even have been able to own guns. I guess, under those circumstances, thoughts and prayers are just not very effective.


A woman named Beverly Young Nelson has accused Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was sixteen and he was a regular customer at the restaurant where she worked. Nelson announced this yesterday at a news conference with her lawyer, Gloria Allred. As evidence that she knew Moore, she displayed a high school yearbook with an inscription from Moore.

The Trumpist blog Gateway Pundit has declared the inscription a fraud, based on the expert observations of ... um, a flamethrower expert.

GP's Joshua Caplan writes:
Known for his insightful take on politics, journalist and author Thomas Wictor believes Judge Roy Moore’s signature in Gloria Allred accuser Beverly Young Nelson’s yearbook is a forgery.

The sevens in 1977 to the right of “Christmas,” are very different from the sevens in the date (12-22-77) above “Old Hickory House.”

“Look at the two versions of the number “7,” tweeted Wictor.

“”12-22-77” and “Olde Hickory House” were written by a different person,” he added.
Do you see a noticeable difference between the two sets of 7's? I don't, but that must be because I'm blinded by FAKE NEWS!!!
Next, Wictor points out “the “R” and “y” in “Roy,”” are not written the same way.

The inflection of the “Y” is more pronounced in Moore’ signature as Chief Justice. The “R” is noticeably longer in the signature of Chief Justice, as well....

I have a voter registration card I signed in 1991. There's a copy of my 1991 signature in the big book at my precinct whenever I vote. When I sign that book, does my signature look similar decades later? Yes. Does it match exactly? No. I'm a human being. My writing stays the same, but there are slight variations. Certain bits of muscle memory have altered over the years.

What else?
In addition, Wictor points out the restaurant where Nelson alleges the incident took place was “forged,” incorrectly.

“”Old Hickory House” in Gadsden was never called “Olde Hickory House.” The person who forged the signature got the name wrong,” claims Wictor.
You remember that famous punk rock club on the Bowery in the 1970s? Everyone called it "CBGB's" -- even though there was never an apostrophe or an s in the name.

Did people think it was called the "Olde" Hickory House? Get some investigative journalists on this, stat!

Anything else?
The “forged,” signature also ends with “D.A.”

There’s one problem…

Moore was a Deputy District Attorney (DDA) at this time.
If there's one thing we know about Roy Moore, it's that he likes himself. He likes himself a lot. How likely would he be to upgrade his title in an autograph? I think quite likely.

Now, who is Thomas Wictor, besides being a guy who's allegedly "known for his insightful take on politics"?

His Amazon page tells us this:
Thomas Wictor was born in Caripito, Venezuela, and has lived in Texas, the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain, Oregon, Japan, and California. He earned a bachelor's degree in history from Lewis and Clark College and has worked as a stevedore, library archivist, conversational English teacher, editor of the world's first online newspaper, voiceover actor, delivery driver, process server, field representative for a document-retrieval service, and music journalist.
I don't see any relevant qualifications, but go on.
He is the author of seven books and is the planet's only expert on World War I flamethrowers....
Oh, an expert on World War I flamethrowers! Why didn't you tell me that in the first place? I would never have doubted his ability to perform expert handwriting analysis on a signature he's seen only on the Internet!

Wictor is the author of German Flamethrower Pioneers of World War I and Flamethrower Troops of World War I: The Central and Allied Powers. For all I know, they're excellent books. He also wrote Hallucinabulia: The Dream Diary of an Unintended Solitarian, which is ... um, some sort of memoir.

None of it qualifies as expertise.

Now, could Beverly Young Nelson be making this up? It's conceivable. But I need more than Flamethrower Guy is offering me.

But give Gateway Pundit this much: the headline of this story (IT'S A FAKE!) was trending on Twitter this morning. GP's Jim Hoft may be the Stupidest Man on the Internet, as so many people say, but he regularly manages to inject this stuff into the narrative, which seems evil, but not stupid at all.


UPDATE: In comments, djchefron directs my attention to this, shared by Roy Moore's wife, Kayla:

An reporter says: nope.

And, please note that the listing identifies it as the Olde Hickory House.

Monday, November 13, 2017


It was all going so well for Steve Bannon. He'd latched onto Roy Moore, who was already on his way to a likely victory over incumbent Luther Strange in the Alabama GOP Senate primary, and by the time Moore won, Bannon had persuaded much of the political world that he was the key to Moore's victory, that he embodied Trumpism more than Donald Trump (who endorsed Strange), and that he was going to take down incumbent after establishment incumbent in 2018.

Then, in early November, this happened:
Right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer ... is resigning from the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies and selling his stake in Breitbart News....

... Mercer cited “personal reasons” for wanting to sell his stake in Breitbart News, and took issue with the idea that he “marches in lockstep” with Bannon. Mercer also repudiates Milo Yiannopoulos in the letter. The former Breitbart News tech editor and professional troll “caused pain and divisiveness,” Mercer wrote, “undermining the open and productive discourse that I had hoped to facilitate.”
This came after BuzzFeed reported on Yiannopoulos's efforts to launder white supremacist content for mass consumption while at Breitbart, and after a campaign to urge institutions to divest from Mercer's hedge fund began.

Then Roy Moore began to be accused of pedophilia (the latest: a woman named Beverly Young Nelson today accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16 and he was in his thirties, and both The New Yorker and the Alabama news site are reporting that Moore was known to prowl a local shopping mall in search of teenage girls around that time). Even D.C. Republicans who seemed likely to stand by Moore -- Ted Cruz, for instance -- are abandoning him, and it's possible he'll be expelled from the Senate if he's elected (and his election is not at all certain).

And now Bannon suffers another rebuff:
Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the GOP’s most prominent mega-donor, is publicly breaking with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon over his efforts to oust Republican incumbents in 2018.

“The Adelsons will not be supporting Steve Bannon’s efforts,” said Andy Abboud, an Adelson spokesman. “They are supporting Mitch McConnell 100 percent. For anyone to infer anything otherwise is wrong.”
How humiliating is this?
The former White House chief strategist appeared before the Zionist Organization of America annual dinner on Sunday night. ZOA is heavily funded by Adelson.

During the dinner, Bannon described himself as a “Christian Zionist” and lavished praise on the billionaire.

Bannon had been slated to introduce Adelson and his spouse, Miriam, at the event, according to a copy of the program. The Adelsons, however, did not make it to the event, one person close to the couple said — in part because Adelson was concerned that appearing publicly with Bannon would be seen as a tacit endorsement of his efforts.
Bannon went to the dinner to kiss Adelson's ring -- and Adelson blew him off. That's gotta hurt.

Well, all this couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.


Frank Rich believes that the Republican Establishment can't possibly come back, even in a post-Trump era, because Donald Trump represents a large group of angry sans-culotte populists who pre-date him (they're the same voters who flocked to George Wallace, or their descendants), and they won't go away now, even if Trump leaves office soon:
The idea that the pre-Trump GOP will make a post-Trump comeback to vanquish these forces is laughable. Old-line Establishment Republicans in the Senate and the House, even very conservative ones like Flake, are engaging in self-deportation, as Mitt Romney might say, rather than face a firing squad in the primaries. The Trumpists will with time expunge the rest, including Paul Ryan (whom Bannon has dismissed as “a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation,” according to Joshua Green in The Devil’s Bargain). It’s a replay of the purge of the 1960s, when the reinvented GOP shaped by Goldwater, Nixon, and the “southern strategy” shoved aside the likes of Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney. Given that 89 percent of Republicans voted for Trump in November and that 80 percent of today’s GOP voters reliably give Trump favorable approval ratings no matter what he has said or done since, that means only a fifth of those Americans identifying as Republicans are (possibly) “Never Trumpers.”
There's truth in this, but what Jeet Heer wrote a hile back is more persuasive to me:
What’s striking is that this so-called war between the establishment and the populists always ends in the same way: with the establishment absorbing elements of the populist agenda to win elections. Seen in this light, these so-called insurgencies or civil wars never really hurt the Republican Party. Rather, they give it more energy by riling up the base.
It wasn't so long ago that there were prominent pro-choice Republicans. (As late as 2008, Tom Ridge, a pro-choice former Pennsylvania governor, was on the GOP's vice presidential short list.) Now there are none. It wasn't long ago that some Republicans still believed in addressing the problem of climate change. (The McCain campaign supported cap-and-trade.) And let's not even talk about immigration. The party has moved to the right on these issues, and most Republicans who were once more moderate on these issues have fallen in lockstep.

It will happen again with Trumpism. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are gone, and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell may follow, but some of 2018's targeted Republicans will survive primaries, possibly by making themselves Trumpier. Some of the new Bannonites, like the original round of Tea Party candidates, will prove not to be pitchfork-bearing radicals. (Remember, Marco Rubio was a 2010 Tea Party champion.) The GOP will get worse, but it will survive.

Martin Longman thinks it won't survibe, because Republicans aren't delivering tax cuts or Obamacare repeal for the GOP's traditional plutocrat base. He's trying to imagine a post-GOP future:
Monied interests are going to conclude that the GOP can no longer serve their purposes. That’s already happening, which is why you see so many Republicans openly admitting that their donors have had it and will not continue to fund their social conservatism unless they get their corporate tax cuts. For our coastal elites, the cultural humiliation of being aligned with Trumpism is already getting too great to bear, but the GOP’s inability to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of basic governance will take things over the edge....

The first step is for the money to walk away from the Republican Party. Once they decide that the conservative movement has gone far past its expiration date and curdled in the box, they’ll get about building something new. Maybe they’ll build it first in California and New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
I can't see that, although there are popular Republican governors in Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, and New Hampshire. But these are governors who are willing to meet liberal Democrats partway. That's not what the plutocrats want.

They want someone who can slip full-strength conservatism past the voters in the guise of moderation. There were a lot of GOP presidential candidates who could have done that in 2016 -- Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie -- but none were able to win. The plutocrats aren't going to settle for much less.

They still haven't ruled out the possibility that Trump and the current crop of Republicans can deliver for them. They're withholding money from Republicans in a tough-love effort to compel them to pass tax cuts. But if they'd really had it with Trumpism, they'd be working nearly as hard as Tom Steyer is to defenestrate Trump. They still like the Trump administration's tax and budgetary proposals. And they love the fact that so many departments and agencies are being run by former industry executives. In addition, they appreciate the efficiency with which Republicans are approving judges who'll rubber-stamp Rpublican gerrymandering and vote-suppression efforts.

Maybe this will all change if Democratic wins in 2018 get them more than a handful of governorships and more seats in the House of Representatives. The GOP is a mess right now, but I don't believe plutocrats will abandon it -- not unless it falls into the hands of post-Trump populists who actually mean it when they say they favor ordinary people and distrust corporate elites. But that will never really happen, will it?


Yesterday, Axios reported on Breitbart's dirty diggers:
Steve Bannon has sent two of Breitbart News' top reporters, Matt Boyle and Aaron Klein, to Alabama. Their mission: to discredit the Washington Post's reporting on Roy Moore's alleged sexual misconduct with teenagers.
So far, the Bannon crew doesn't have much:
A story that popped today — splashed over the Breitbart homepage — contains what the website claims is a major hole in the account of Leigh Corfman, who says Alabama Senate candidate, Moore, made sexual advances on her when she was 14 years old.

Klein reports from Birmingham, Alabama: "Speaking by phone to Breitbart News on Saturday, Corfman's mother, Nancy Wells, 71, says that her daughter did not have a phone in her bedroom during the period that Moore is reported to have allegedly called Corfman – purportedly on Corfman's bedroom phone – to arrange at least one encounter."

... It's quite a head-scratcher as to why Breitbart thinks this bedroom phone detail matters. As Corfman's mother told Breitbart "the phone in the house could get through to her easily." Wells stands by her daughter's allegations.
A follow-up story is even flimsier:
EXCLUSIVE – Mother of Roy Moore Accuser: Washington Post Reporters Convinced My Daughter to Go Public

The mother of Leigh Corfman, who says that Alabama Senatorial Candidate Roy Moore tried to engage in a sexual encounter with her when she was 14, told Breitbart News that the Washington Post worked to convince her daughter to give an interview about the allegations against Moore.

Speaking by phone to Breitbart News on Saturday, Corfman’s mother, Nancy Wells, 71, further stated that her daughter would not have come forward if it weren’t for The Post reporter’s alleged actions.
They're not "alleged actions" -- the original Post story acknowledged that the women quoted were persuaded to come forward by Post reporters:
Neither Corfman nor any of the other women sought out The Post. While reporting a story in Alabama about supporters of Moore’s Senate campaign, a Post reporter heard that Moore allegedly had sought relationships with teenage girls. Over the ensuing three weeks, two Post reporters contacted and interviewed the four women. All were initially reluctant to speak publicly but chose to do so after multiple interviews, saying they thought it was important for people to know about their interactions with Moore.
Breitbart has nothing so far -- but it doesn't matter, for two reasons.

First, the nothingburger stories are drawing a lot of eyeballs. Both of them among the most popular stories listed on the Breitbart home page. As I type this, the first story has drawn 14,501 comments in 23 hours. The second story has drawn 11,979 comments in 15 hours. That's a lot of reader engagement. Who needs real scoops when non-scoops work this well?

Second, the readers of Breitbart will interpret anything these guys turn up, however insubstantial, as proof that the story is tainted and unbelievable. Free Republic has posted links to both of the Breitbart stories, and commenters are already convinced that the Post paid for the story, with assistance from Democrats and/or (because they're the right-wing villains of the moment) establishment Republicans:
More like WAPO reporters paid her to go public.

Bankrupt 3 times. Divorced 3 times. Drug addiction.

Yeah, the ideal candidate for a big payoff.


I am hopeful that Judge Moore’s prosecutor friends are interviewing witnesses, chasing down details, and asking for bank records about WaPo payments. There may be some criminal conduct there, and that would be the real bombshell. It would be even better if they roll it up and it leads to McConnell. He needs to go; he is willing to sacrifice this important seat in order to keep establishment control of the Senate. This is about 2018 and Bannon as much as it is about Moore. He wants to win against Bannon.


At what point does (has) the so-called “media” cease to be a journalistic enterprise protected by the First Amendment and instead become simply a slanderous conspiracy deserving of RICO scrutiny?
Breitbart is unlikely to find anything that would make a reasonable person doubt this story. But most Republican voters aren't reasonable people. They're an angry mob, and it will take very little to confirm their belief that their enemies have done something reprehensible. After all this is over, it will be widely believed on the right that the story was thoroughly debunked, just the way it's widely believed on the right that the Trump-Russia story has been debunked. Boyle and Klein won't have to work very hard to make that happen.