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On “Russia Is A DISTRACTION” Concern Trolling

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This from Booman, is excellent:

Now, the purpose of writing about Russia isn’t to hurt Trump’s poll numbers, but it certainly hasn’t been helping him. We can talk about agency, since obviously Trump is the most self-injurious politician we’ve seen since Anthony Weiner. How much is the Russia issue hurting him versus his horrible health care bill or his odious travel ban or his failure to get the Mexicans to pay for his wall? And isn’t he more responsible than anyone for keeping the Russia issue alive with all his unhinged tweeting about it being a witch hunt and fake news?

All I can say is that there’s no evidence that Trump is benefitting in any way from pretty much anything, and certainly not because liberal columnists and bloggers and television hosts won’t let up on Russia.

Everyone has their pet theory about how the Democrats should be different, and what you’ll notice before long is that all the people who are asking folks to shut up about Russia are really asking them to talk about their pet theory instead.

For them, admitting that money and media affect elections is easy when it’s the Koch Brothers exploiting Citizens United, but when it’s Russians manipulating their Facebook feed, that’s a threat to their worldview that all would be rosy if only Sanders had been nominated or Clinton had campaigned in Wisconsin or neoliberalism had been strangled in the crib.

These rearview battles are the real distraction. The president is bleeding like a stuck pig, and people want to run to his rescue because it’s all a big distraction from the thing they really care about.

Like I said, the Russia issue isn’t about hurting the president’s poll numbers. It’s about our foreign policy and the integrity of our elections and potential corruption and disloyalty in our public officials. But the polls do tell a story, and that story is that Trump isn’t winning this fight or this argument.

It’s just bizarre that people will freak out about voter suppression and lax campaign finance laws but shrug off an entire nation state throwing its weight into one side of an election.

Obviously, the concern trolling is especially ridiculous when the anti-Trump issue we’re allegedly being distracted from discussing is “someone who will never run for president again sucks.” But even when the issue is actually relevant to opposition to Trump, there’s no reason to believe that 1)the Russia-based attacks aren’t politically effective, and the filibuster of Gorsuch is the latest example that it’s not preempting other forms of opposition. If you want to argue that any particular argument about Russian influence is wrong or overblown go ahead, but the “it’s a DISTRACTION” argument is both silly and, as with all concern trolling, good reason to believe that the underlying argument is weak on the merits.

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  • kvs

    I’ve also seen equally facile arguments that the Russia investigations are the only true form of resistance and everything else is a distraction from them. It’s demonstrably false that any one form of resistance is going to suck up all the oxygen in the room.

    There’s bandwidth aplenty to cover multiple stories concurrently, resources to resist on multiple fronts, and paths forward that aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, it’s necessary to pursue all of them because they’re both all important on their own and force Trump and his enablers to defend multiple things at once.

    It’s a lot harder for them to get their shit together than if they’re allowed a singular focus.

    • Besides the fact that by covering as many of these issues as possible, it helps to build a general sense that the Trump Administration is rotten and corrupt across its entire length, breadth, and depth. It helps to establish the meme that Trump and his cronies are not just the most corrupt regime in modern history, but in U.S. history period.

    • brewmn

      The Russian connections should be getting a disproportionate amount of attention. They have the potential to bring this entire presidency down and send several of its top advisors and officials to prison. That is a big deal.

      • Exactly. Plus it’s something that even the most simple-minded conservative can get his head around.

      • kvs

        Those investigations have specific agencies, Congressional committees, and reporters assigned to them. And it’s also a long game.

        In the meantime, there are acute crises to manage including nominees, executive orders, and legislation like the AHCA to manage. All of those things left unchecked can cause significant real, meaningful harm. Russia shouldn’t get disproportionate attention at the expense of preventing that immediate harm just because there’s a chance it could lead to an impeachment and conviction eventually.

  • Judas Peckerwood

    Yeah, for some reason I always hear the “Russia is a distraction” arguments in either Roger Stone’s or Boris Badenov’s voice.

  • Dr. Acula

    And then there’s The Nation, where in their fantasy world, opposing a right-wing authoritarian in Russia subverting our elections is “red baiting”.

    • I don’t get it either: Marxist-Leninist thought was failed in the first place because Russia was filled w/ retrograde peasants who couldn’t become the new Soviet man; now the country’s back to imperialism, except w/ oligarchs instead of nobles, Putin uses the reactionary national church to scapegoat LGBTQ people, terrist Muslims, & anyone else who looks funny, so now The Nation wants to defend the frozen dump?

      • humanoid.panda

        Putin uses the reactionary national church to scapegoat LGBTQ people, terrist Muslims, & anyone else who looks funny, so now The Nation wants to defend the frozen dump?

        This is a somewhat pedantic point, but Putin’s “Muslim hordes are invading” stuff is strictly for export. Putin is very friendly to institutional Islam, had opened the country to massive labor migration from Central Asia, has (and enforces) laws against incitement on the basis of religion, and let various Caucasian autonomous republic to quietly maintain versions of SHARIA LAW. And it’s not like he is a devotee of multiculturalism or anything: but he rules a multiethnic state, and unlike his Western admirers, he is a functional adult.

      • CP

        This.

        In the USSR days, at least you could sort-of understand the rationalization behind hard-left apologia for Russia, on the grounds that Russia was somehow the forefront of the struggle for human progress. (I’d still have thought they were scumbags and full of it, but, you know, from their POV).

        Nowadays? Russia is a gangster-capitalist regime with strongly imperialist, Christianist, and white nationalist impulses. There is no universe in which any branch of the left has any business being an apologist for these guys – it’s basically Pinochet’s Chile with paler skin. They’ve become exactly what the right has accused the left of being for so long – so obsessed with America as the Focus Of Evil In The Modern World that they’ll align with anyone. (Of course, most of our right seems to be there as well).

        • DrDick

          This. Even as a socialist, I have long seen the USSR (or China for that matter) as problematic at best. They are a big part of why I generally favor syndicalism over state socialism (with some exceptions for natural monopolies or industries which benefit from national control).

        • Origami Isopod

          so obsessed with America as the Focus Of Evil In The Modern World that they’ll align with anyone.

          As someone here said a while back about Greenwald, it’s the mirror image of American exceptionalism.

          • Rob in CT

            It has been said that right wingers love America like a 4 year old loves mommy.

            Apparently, the “hard” left hates America like a 13 year old hates mommy.

          • Bruce B.

            Same America, different exception.

    • Snuff curry

      Isn’t it already a general rule that whenever a hippie is reportedly being punched offstage it’s just a square playing How Do You Do, Fellow Peaceniks?

      They flatter themselves, these new, self-styled anti-McCarthyites, whose concern for overreach and civil liberties is mutable, fluid, and ill-fitting.

    • FlipYrWhig

      I was a Nation subscriber for 25 years, and finally last month I just couldn’t fucking take the nonsense anymore.

      • Q.E.Dumbass

        That long? I figured you’d have hauled ass somewhere around early 2015.

        • FlipYrWhig

          I was like a beleaguered sports fan thinking that THIS year the team would finally turn things around.

    • DrDick

      I have seen that nonsense elsewhere and it always makes my head hurt.

  • Murc

    Basically, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Yes. That’s entirely the case.

    I mean… if the Russia stuff ever actually achieved the height of coverage that EMAILZ! did, where it literally is drowning out legitimate news as the talking heads debate if Trump’s ties are secret signals to the Kremlin while his administration is slipping “Hunt Brown People for Sport” executive orders past the courts and Congress is passing the “Negative Tax Rates For Makers” tax reform that he then signs, then yes, I would joint the ranks of those complaining that the Russia stuff is a distraction.

    Doesn’t seem likely, does it. So far we’ve all been perfectly capable of paying attention to multiple things at the same time.

    One quibble:

    Everyone has their pet theory about how the Democrats should be different, and what you’ll notice before long is that all the people who are asking folks to shut up about Russia are really asking them to talk about their pet theory instead.

    There’s nothing at all wrong with this, per se. The problem isn’t that folks want their pet theories to be discussed as opposed to other peoples; we all want that in situations in which they aren’t compatible. The problem is that in this specific context, a lot of the theories range from “risible” to “actively destructive.”

    • humanoid.panda

      I’d say that the main problem is not hat people are peddling bad theories. It’s that they keep insisting that whomever engages with the wrong theory or the wrong topic is PLAYING INTO TRUMPS’ HANDS.

    • DrDick

      Right. Even as a Staunch Sanders supporter who thinks Clinton is at least partially responsible for her loss, this is a really big deal and deserves a lot of attention, just as the “EMAILZ!” nonsense and Comey’s blatantly partisan intervention do. All three of these are things that we need to correct and cannot tolerate if we are to retain our republic.

      • Q.E.Dumbass

        Isn’t “at least partially responsible for her own loss” a strawmam, though? The general opinion of the frontpagers and commentariat is not that Clinton was fully exculpated, but that her mistakes (aside from the speeches) were miscalculations, not primarily born out of amateurism or hubris.

        (As for Sanders: I think his general prospects were basically a coin-flip, he’d be an OK executive but weaker than Clinton, and a loss in the general would’ve been worse for the party).

  • corporatecake

    Especially ironic in all this is that Trump’s latest attempt at distracting us with his various permutations on Obama wiretapping claims have been mostly met with incredulity and as close as the mainstream press can come to snorts of derision.

    • Snuff curry

      That’s a feature, though. First the fake news is propagated and then the election is over. Then jolted from their blessed sleep the other newsies critique the fake news, whereupon the critiques become, out of necessity, Fake News. From there, shitfaces from both wings can, with greater or lesser credibility, proclaim the press dirty, biased, and interested only in easy-to-digest scandal as they carry water for fascists on the one foot and Deep Staters on the other.

      I didn’t expect the Deep Staters to be neo-liberal, though. It’s a neat little variation on an old ratfucking trick and it seems to be working well.

      • humanoid.panda

        Is it me, or was snuff curry’s comment produced by some kind of internet jargon generator?

        • NonyNony

          It’s just the world we live in these days. Our world appears to have been generated by an internet jargon generator.

        • Domino

          “Let me tell you panda, Snuff Curry’s comment was done by a tremendous American-made jargon(?)[Note: Trump pauses here to read the word and mispronounce it] generator. The best generator. Just like we’re putting the miners back to work, I want there to 10 times more jargon generators across this country. Towns that have been devastated by the drug problem. Which, in case you folks haven’t heard, my smart, highly capable son-in-law Jared is working to solve right now. Jared’s a tremendous guy, I mean, I’m smart, and I think he’s intelligent.

          So we’re going to revitalize these communities with jargon generators. Tremendous generators. The best. Though I’m still going to bring back jobs from Chin-a and Mexico. Those unfair deals are going to be corrected, and we’re going to put people back to work. And I see some fake news outlets that say “Donald Trump is no longer negotiating to bring back manufacturing jobs”. FAKE NEWS, folks.

          How desperate have these fake news stations become? Remember when they said “There’s no way for Donald Trump to win the presidency.” They said I couldn’t get 230, 220 votes. They said I had no chance…

          I’m done for now. Man, I didn’t realize how much temporary joy can come from writing hypothetical Trump speeches.

          • Origami Isopod

            Make America Generated Again

            • rea

              Bring back the jars!

  • efgoldman

    All of the investigations, in the press, in congress/senate, in the FBI and intelligence community, are out there under the general rubric of “Russia” or “Russian interference”. Actually there are at least two parallel tracks:
    1) Political/security. How much is Tangerine Tumor tied into Russia? How much are which advisors (Flynn is obvious) and relatives? Is there prosecutable evidence of espionage or aid and comfort?
    2) Financial. I think Mango Malignancy and family are much more vulnerable here. How much are they into the Russians? What are the terms? What are the quid pros quo? Is there money laundering involved? Bribery (on either side)? Tax evasion?
    Either or both could bring them down.

  • priceyeah

    Seems like a straw person argument to me. I go on Twitter every day and here’s what I observe. Obviously my feed is packed with intelligent, informed, upset liberals. It’s very rare to hear Hillary Clinton’s name mentioned. Statements about what we should and shouldn’t be doing are fairly common but none of them involve mentioning or not mentioning Russia per se. Most important, it’s obvious that almost every person offers a different strategy to the problem of opposing Trump. Just off the top of my head, Xeni Jardin, Ana Marie Cox, Elliott Lusztig, Shaun King, Clara Jeffery, and Josh Marshall are temperamentally not similar at all but nowhere do I get even the slightest whiff of the notion that “we have to choose one.”

    Maybe I’m missing something. It would be helpful if Booman, you know, quoted somebody.

    • Chetsky

      It’s fair to point out that Booman didn’t explicitly cite any such concern trolling. At least to me, it was obvious he was responding to Taibbi’s recent piece, and perhaps to Gessen’s also. But especially, Taibbi’s jumped to mind in an instant.

      Still woulda been good if he’d cited some of it, I suppose. If for no other reason than that, a year from now, his post will be less comprehensible.

      • Chetsky

        Ha! I didn’t notice that the *immediately prior* post at BoomanTribune was … ta da! a detailed takedown of Taibbi’s Russia concern-trolling

        So maybe that’s why he didn’t link to Taibbi — he’d just written a (actually rather long) piece ripping him to shreds, and the piece linked-to- above is just dessert.

        • bizarroMike

          From that other Booman post:

          When did Matt Taibbi begin to sound exactly like George Will?

          That has to leave a mark.

          • kped

            That line was a killer.

            Taibbi is a fraud. The past week he is battling nobodies on Twitter about the Russia stuff, but he won’t respond to something like this (Booman also published this at Washington Monthly under his real name). Taibbi is a chicken shit who is engaging in nutpicking to keep his pet theory propped up.

            Hell, right now, I’d say he’s no better than Friedman with a better grasp of analogy.

            • Hell, right now, I’d say he’s no better than Friedman

              That’s harsh. And I don’t know which of them should feel more insulted.

              • djw

                Some of Taibbi’s finest moments are his hilarious reviews of Friedman’s books, which showcase nicely his very real writing talent. But even those are pretty light on substance. They’re all about the terrible writing, penchant for thinking in inept analogy/metaphor, and pretentious self-regard, but there’s very little of substance in those reviews on Friedman’s actual globalist ideology. They’re as light and fluffy as their target.

                • kvs

                  Taibbi’s styled himself after Hunter Thompson with all the rage and cynicism but none of the critical insight.

            • humanoid.panda

              Taibbi is a chicken shit who is engaging in nutpicking to keep his pet theory propped up.

              Also, almost certainly a child rapist. But only filthy neo-liberals care about such things- he was too busy thinking about the revolution.

              • kped

                I thought that was more Ames thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The amount of drugs those two ingested, and their attempts at living in complete debauchery (combined with living in an era in Russia where that was very very easy), I wouldn’t be surprised about anything that went on.

                • Q.E.Dumbass

                  Regarding the “bulletproof whistleblower” problem — has anyone done a comprehensive review of Taibbi and Ames’ work on Russia on whether the bulk of it was a) true and b) not unwittingly running interference for various power brokers?

                • humanoid.panda

                  Regarding the “bulletproof whistleblower” problem — has anyone done a comprehensive review of Taibbi and Ames’ work on Russia on whether the bulk of it was a) true and b) not unwittingly running interference for various power brokers?

                  It’s a bit complicated. Thing is that back into the 1990s, nobody in the elite minded if people documented that they were raping, pillaging, and plundering the country: they were by and large proud of it. PRetty much the only way you got in trouble was if you went after specific individuals, at the behest of others -which strongly implies that Ames and Taibbi, who never got in trouble, were basically court jesters, not anyone’s agents.

                • kped

                  Yeah, I want to be clear, i don’t think they are agents for someone, and i like your wording, court jesters. They thought they were brave truth tellers, but really, if they were, they’d be dead, because it would have been so easy, and those Russians with power don’t mess around.

                • Q.E.Dumbass

                  So they weren’t actually that effectual. Thanks.

                  BTW, have you considered starting a blog (or applying to be a Balloon Juice front pager)?

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  I think it’s pride- how can Taibbi admit he, of all people, got suckered by Russian propaganda bots?

                • humanoid.panda

                  BTW, have you considered starting a blog (or applying to be a Balloon Juice front pager)?

                  I am too lazy to start mu own blog, and honestly I don’t like Balloon Juice. I am willing to drafted for front page privileges if the people demand it though :-)

              • pseudalicious

                I was aware that he was a sexually harassing pig during Russia. He’s a rapist? Why isn’t there a concerted effort to get him fired? At the very least to force him to make amends to those he’s hurt?

                • Q.E.Dumbass

                  I think humanoid.panda is conflating Ames’ deeds with Taibbi’s (indeed, Ames’ admitted to committing rape, including of underage girls) although Taibbi also being a rapist is rather plausible

                • pseudalicious

                  This is fucking disgusting.

      • priceyeah

        Thanks for the info. I missed the Taibbi angle. I’m not surprised that the post is legit and yeah, the perspective deserves a takedown.

    • ajay

      Xeni Jardin, Ana Marie Cox, Elliott Lusztig, Shaun King, Clara Jeffery, and Josh Marshall are temperamentally not similar at all but nowhere do I get even the slightest whiff of the notion that “we have to choose one.”

      Worst Pokemon reboot EVER.

    • ajay

      At least to me, it was obvious he was responding to Taibbi’s recent piece, and perhaps to Gessen’s also. But especially, Taibbi’s jumped to mind in an instant.

      A thought which entered my mind some time ago and won’t go away: what are the chances that there’s a tape, somewhere, of Taibbi doing something really horrible in Russia? Given his lifestyle during the many years he was living there (about which he wrote extensively and gleefully)… did it all go a bit too far one evening? With one of those expendable Russian girls?

      • Chetsky

        Crrrrrrikey. I’d wondered how Taibbi went from coining “blood-sucking vampire squid face-hugging the world” to “on balance, Russian decapitation of our government is no biggie”. I have no opinion on this, but gosh, it sure would explain that change.

        • ajay

          That’s the thing; it’s unsettlingly plausible. I mean, Taibbi was a foreign journalist writing about political and military issues in Russia in the 2000s. Why wouldn’t the FSB at least have a try at compromising him?

          And then you think: they would have had to get something really nasty on him. I mean, if they wanted to compromise a normal journalist, you could do it with “we’ll tell your wife you slept with someone else” or “we’ll tell your editor you padded your expenses”. Minor sins but enough to scare a normal person into compliance.

          But Taibbi was with the Exile, which was staffed and run essentially by people who thought the best thing in life was to combine the writing style of Hunter S. Thompson with the lifestyle of, well, Donald Trump. If you’d told Mark Ames that one of his journalists was padding expenses or visiting hookers, he’d just have said “ah, you’ve read his last column I see”. You’d have had to do better than that. And by better I mean worse.

          • kped

            Not into conspiracy theories…but this one is strangely plausible. During his time with “The Exile”, Taibbi became a full on heroin addict, along with coke, and he and Ames frequented public sex clubs and had sex with underage prostitutes (well, Ames for sure on the underage prostitutes). They went after powerful Russian people and strangely lived to tell about it. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone had something on the two of them.

            • humanoid.panda

              As I note above: this ignores the context of the times. No powerful Russian person minded if you described his a rapacious, corrupt, horndog – this was the image they were cultivating! You only got in trouble, as foreigner, if you dug too deep into details of international banking transactions, or if you tried to stop Russians from taking over your business.

              • kped

                Probably right there.

            • pseudalicious

              Why isn’t Ames in jail?

              • Q.E.Dumbass

                The rapes happened largely in Russia during the ’90s-early 2000s, so not only is there the total absence of jurisdiction but it’s be Herculean to track down the victims.

                • pseudalicious

                  You’re right, I should’ve realized that before I typed, I was just blinded with rage. Banksters, so evil! Now let me give an exploited girl the worst day(s) of her entire life.

      • humanoid.panda

        A thought which entered my mind some time ago and won’t go away: what are the chances that there’s a tape, somewhere, of Taibbi doing something really horrible in Russia? Given his lifestyle during the many years he was living there (about which he wrote extensively and gleefully)… did it all go a bit too far one evening? With one of those expendable Russian girls?

        Given that he had confessed to multiple accounts of statutory rape in his memoirs without it hurting his career, the odds of him being blackmailed are rather low. We really need to not think that everytime someone says something stupid that means Putin is pulling his strings.

        • Q.E.Dumbass

          Right — one rather glaring problem with the pay-off hypothesis is that Taibbi’s only been carrying krokodil for Putin since last year, which indicates derangement syndrome. (A somewhat more plausible theory regarding useful idiocy that’s been brought up here is that Greenwald’ is only fucking the “NEO-MCCARTHYISM” because Russia’s intimated a threat on Snowden’s well-being).

        • ajay

          Given that he had confessed to multiple accounts of statutory rape in his memoirs without it hurting his career, the odds of him being blackmailed are rather low

          I envy you the innocence of mind that leads you to think that there is nothing worse that someone like Taibbi could possibly do than that.

          • humanoid.panda

            Given that in our culture, “killed and dismembered someone on camera” is pretty much the only thing than “had sex with underage girls/boys on camera” I’m gonna go ahead and say that “Taibbi being blackmailed” is somewhat implausible.

            • NonyNony

              Taibbi’s credibility with his audience would go way down if it turned out that he’d once done work for a bank or been employed as a PR guy for a corporation.

              • pseudalicious

                I worry at times that the online alt-right and Chapo left are going to merge into something horrifying that does a lot of real world damage to women.

    • marduk

      He’s responding to his commenters.

      Booman reads the discussion on his site and there’s a prolific and vocal group of commenters who have crawled way, all the way up their own asses on the Russia issue. Some of whom seemingly get 100% of their news from RT and Glenn Greenwald.

      Booman’s been trying (and failing) to drag them back into reality for months. He seems to be losing patience.

      • kped

        Correct, and this is a continuation of the piece just prior, which is explicitly about Taibbi’s latest Rolling Stone article, which Booman quotes liberally.

        This is not a strawman in the slightest.

      • FlipYrWhig

        That’s been a deranged nutter comment section for years upon years.

        • Rob in CT

          Just browsing it and… there’s a fair bit of sanity but holy shit some of them…

      • Origami Isopod

        This guy:

        Similarly, with the Dems and the last election. The election was lost for 2 reasons

        1. Jobs

        2. Illegals


        So what do the Dems do when confronted with this PATENTLY OBVIOUS and PATHETICALLY EASY call?

        They blame it on the Russians and their ad-bots.

        You know, I can see why some of them are very eager to make nice with Trump voters.

        • marduk

          Yeah, that guy is a loud and proud white nationalist. (But don’t dare call me racist!)

          • Origami Isopod

            He must be very economically anxious.

    • djw

      I think the post is obviously meant to be read in light of his previous post about Tiabbi, who seems intent on stuffing himself with straw. Other offenders, obviously, include Greenwald and The Nation. But you seem to be imputing an argument that isn’t made in the post, namely, that this problem with extremely widespread or drowning out all other prespectives. Booman isn’t saying that at all; he’s writing about the subset of liberals who play this particular rhetorical game wrt Russia. That you have crafted your twitter feed such that you are not exposed to such nonsense speaks to your good sense, but nonetheless they persist.

    • DrDick

      Actually, I have seen a fair bit of this, mostly on Facebook.

  • kayden

    How can we pretend that Russian interference in our election is a non-issue? Anyone arguing that this is not an important issue which needs to be heavily investigated is covering for Trump. It feels as if our only hope is that the FBI’s investigation is thorough enough to completely expose Trump’s links to Putin/Russia. I don’t see how his Presidency could survive after that.

  • ploeg

    Obviously, the concern trolling is especially ridiculous when the anti-Trump issue we’re allegedly being distracted from discussing is “someone who will never run for president again sucks.”

    You of course discount the ominous threat of Chelsea Clinton and her hereditary, unslakable thirst for speaking fees and foreign blood. Even now she rears her head and screeches a battle cry to her mindless minions: “I’m definitely not the right person to run to defeat [President Trump] in 2020. Right now, the answer is no.”

  • bluicebank

    First-time poster, short-term lurker. Points on my first post:

    1. Not even Warren Zevon know she was working for the Russians, too.
    2. Concern trolling comes in many flavors. Today we have a tossed salad.
    3. One thing does not equal another.

    a) On that last point, I’ll offer the mathematical opinion that Hillary Clinton succeeded in winning the populace, and that her campaign failed to win the electoral vote. QED her campaign tactics dropped the ball as her strategy succeeded. End.

    b) The Sanders issue is a hypothetical, since his campaign could have made the same mistake against Trump as Hillary.

    c) The above aside, the big issue is both Russia and the cluster known as the Trump administration.

    d) There is no “distraction” to people who can walk and chew gum at the same time. Each distraction from the Trump administration also whittles away its power. Having Sean Spicer flop about like a mental patient does, momentarily, divert one’s attention, but it does not make the numerous scandals go away. Recent polling suggests that the old shuck-and-jive ain’t working.

  • President Putinfluffer

    You shoulda seen the look on McConnel’s face when Vlad promised him the White House.

    Guess who did see it?

  • randy khan

    Not that it makes any difference now, but the impact of the Russia story suggests what would have happened if the news had dropped in early October.

    • kped

      Very true. If the news was “Trump campaign staffers Flynn and Carter Page and xxx met with Russian spies and banks”, that certainly would have had an impact. Instead it was the NYT laundering fake leaks saying “nothing to see on Trump and Russia”, which shut the story down.

      (The NYT is back at it’s worst with “Susan Rice…but questions are raised”…love those questions being raised, it does such heavy lifting in a news story).

      • Rob in CT

        Seriously, goddamn these people. This stuff was trickling out during the campaign and it was basically hushed up. Nothing to see here, move along… to HER EMAILZ.

      • cleek

        we already knew about Manafort’s and Stone’s Russia ties. Clinton called Trump a “puppet” in the third (?) debate.

        we already had Trump, on tape, saying he is an agressive sexual predator.

        didn’t matter.

        • kped

          Oh, “FBI investigating Trump campaign” very well could have mattered. It would have at least split the focus with “THE EMAILS” that dominated the last 2 weeks of campaign coverage.

        • CP

          Not a single thing about Trump was given the kind of drumbeat relentless coverage that “Hillary’s emails” got. On those occasions when one of his gaffes did get significant air time, like when he went on an enraged tweeting spree about the Muslim veteran’s father at the DNC, his numbers definitely did go down. And that kind of story, given the stamp of legitimacy of an FBI director’s testimony, would most definitely have made some impact.

          • kped

            Correct. 2 events got the coverage of a Clinton scandal. “Grab her by the pussy” and the Khan feud. And both had demonstrable impacts on his numbers, such that the house was very much in play. But those happened early enough that the media got bored, and then Comey came along, and the last 2 weeks (seriously, it went right into the very last weekend of the campaign before Comey came out and said “my bad”) was dominated by “CLINTON FBI WEINER”.

            CNN ran around the clock panels, where you had 3 Trump stooges crap all over the floor, followed by airing Trump rallies start to finish (actually, they even aired empty podiums awaiting Trump…so it was pre-start to finish).

            Add that to the Times and Post and WSJ running something like 15 front page stories in 8 days on the FBI investigation that last week, and it just completely dominated everything.

            • CP

              Well, they got bored, and Trump really wasn’t the game they wanted to hunt.

              Both those moments went viral because they were so outrageous that there was basically no way to prevent it, and especially because Trump himself insisted on keeping them front and center for days with his tweetstorms. Trump was basically his own worst enemy even in that campaign – anyone with a shred of self-control would’ve spared us these moments and let the MSM talk non-stop about Hillary’s emails, and even those temporary dips in the polls would never have happened.

  • Marc

    One of the most frustrating trends in left-leaning commentary is the unwillingness to fairly characterize arguments that we disagree with. Whether you agree with Taibbi or not, you should be able to state his argument in a form that he’d recognize. In brief:

    1) There is a real danger in embracing conspiracy theories. I think that it’s done tremendous damage to the Republican party (in terms of their ability to govern definitely; I’d even argue in terms of electoral success.) You can’t disprove them; anyone who disagrees is part of the conspiracy. As a concrete example of why the Russia obsession could backfire, look at the maze of Clinton conspiracies in 1992 and how they looked from the outside.

    2) To really defeat Trump we need to peel away GOP-leaning independents and get Republicans unhappy with him. If we look to them like the Clinton crazies looked to us, they’ll react the way that Democrats did. A failed impeachment attempt would complete the circle.

    3) There really is a cold-war vibe to this, and we’ve seen exactly these tactics used against leftists in the past. There is a reason why they make a lot of leftists feel uncomfortable. Anonymous CIA spooks may have a common enemy with me, but the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

    The bottom line is that there is a real chance for the Russia-themed conspiracy theories to backfire and there is a real intellectual danger in investing in conspiracy theories. “It’s driving down his poll numbers” is not a counter-argument.

    • FlipYrWhig

      How about the conspiracy theory “everyone who supported a different candidate and thinks she got hosed and wants the world to know it is part of a wide-ranging effort to force market solutions and foreign wars on an unwilling public and only a few enlightened holdouts like us dare offer resistance?” Because a lot of “the left” seems to cling to that one.

      • djw

        Right. (1) is true but utterly banal. Excluding marginal clowns like Seth Abramson, when I read about Russia I see people saying, roughly, “We don’t know exactly what happened here, but there’s some disturbing and suggestive evidence that clearly warrants further investigations.” To state the obvious, that’s not a conspiracy theory.

        • humanoid.panda

          I’d qualify this is a bit: the tendency to think conspiratorially is powerful, and is present even on this thread, and needs to be pushed back against, vigilantly. However, to minimize the need for the investigation because it might produce bad conspiracy theories is like saying the Dems should not be concerned about Iran-Contra, because if you do, you will start thinking about conspiracies, and next thing, you are peddling theories that AIDS was created by the CIA.

    • Davis X. Machina

      …but the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

      Except in Democratic party primaries…

    • humanoid.panda

      Anonymous CIA spooks may have a common enemy with me, but the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.

      Look. At this point, we have official confirmation from Comey, swearing under oath, that the FBI is investigating the Trump-Russia link, a National Security Adviser that resigned due to Russian conversations, and official IC statement saying Russia did the DNC/Podesta hacks, and a Trump adviser (Page) who said he met with Russian agents as early as 2013. To say this is all “anonymous spooks” is anti-factual. Now, I, for once, think that all this stops somewhere at the Manafort level, and doesn’t implicate Trump directly, but still- it’s not some hallucination.

      • kped

        Now, I, for once, think that all this stops somewhere at the Manafort level, and doesn’t implicate Trump directly, but still- it’s not some hallucination.

        That’s my belief as well. But even then…investigations need to be done to find out.

        And not to mention the fact that it’s quite clear that Russia had a massive disinformation campaign going during the election…and it worked. And one party is completely ignoring that because it helped them win. That’s the scandal to me. And it requires no conspiracy theory, just a bunch of hacks not realizing it can happen to them.

        • CP

          And one party is completely ignoring that because it helped them win.

          And, despite decades upon decades of basing their legitimacy in large part on the idea that they were the Patriotic, Strong-On-Defense, Do-What-Must-Be-Done-To-Protect-The-Homeland, Maintain-American-Strength-Abroad party… none of them is the least bit interested in asking why it is that America’s most powerful foreign adversary wanted their pony and not the other party’s in the White House.

          • kped

            That part is the real kicker. “why does this semi-facist regime want us in power so much? Why do all these dictators like our guy and want him in power”

            It really is party over country.

            • Davis X. Machina

              It really is party over country.

              The organs of the state exist to serve the Party, and not the other way round, because the Party, and not the state, is the Vanguard of the Revolution.

            • CP

              What a terrible thing to say.

              The party is the country, to them, in that only members of their group are real Americans and entitled to the privileges of such people. The rest of us are unwanted interlopers.

              The fact that Hitler killed more Germans than every left-wing radical group he was fighting put together doesn’t mean that he was putting party over country. It simply means that Jews, Roma, homosexuals, the disabled, the left-wingers and all these other people weren’t really German and therefore he owed them nothing. All makes perfect sense, to them.

      • DrDick

        Now, I, for once, think that all this stops somewhere at the Manafort level, and doesn’t implicate Trump directly,

        I am not sure of that personally. Trump has longstanding ties with a lot of rather shady Russian oligarchs/mafia types who also have ties to Putin. I have suspicions that much of his business empire is actually a front for them.

        • CP

          Or at least propped up by them. Being that no institution in the West would touch him once he’d gone through enough bankruptcies.

          But it’s also worth noting that even back in the eighties, in the last years of the Cold War, he was already preaching about the virtues of a Russian-American Grand Alliance.

          • humanoid.panda

            Right, but, putting it mildly, the USSR c. 1986 was not exactly in the position of giving millions to random real estate developers..

            • humanoid.panda

              I’ve actually written about this, just a bit in my dissertation: between 1986 and 1989, when the Soviet economy crumbled, there was a bit of gold rush, as various Western businessmen rush to Moscow with ideas how to make money on the virgin Soviet market. (I saw a letter from one Australian businessmen to the Soviet foreign tourism monopoly offering to turn Crimea into the new Hong-Kong, because after the Chicoms take it over, the world will need a tax-free haven..). Trump being Trump was especially loud about it, but nearly every self-respecting businessman tried to peddle some for of East-West cooperation.

            • CP

              Right – those are two separate points. On the one hand, everything we’ve heard about him suggests that he’s deeply in debt to Russian financial institutions because no one else would touch him. On the other hand, I’m also saying, he seems to have been favorably disposed towards the Soviet/Russian geopolitical entity for a long time, even before you count all the financial ties.

              • jim, some guy in iowa

                well, the Russians do look more like him than the Japanese (remember when *they* were going to take over the US?) and Chinese do

                • CP

                  Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s half of Putin’s appeal to American and European right wingers right there. Strictly speaking there’s no reason they couldn’t rally to Modi or Xi Jinping, but, well… whiteness, dude.

                • humanoid.panda

                  well, the Russians do look more like him than the Japanese (remember when *they* were going to take over the US?) and Chinese do

                  Race is one element of this, for sure. On the other hand, Russians have something he drools on (military power), while they not nearly economically powerful enough to be taking advantage of us. Hit the sweet spot.

      • Chetsky

        Now, I, for once, think that all this stops somewhere at the Manafort level, and doesn’t implicate Trump directly, but still- it’s not some hallucination.

        Following on from DrDick, I’d note that Dampnut is still rather wealthy. A man who deals with scumbags, mobsters, and grifters, as much as he does, and remains wealthy, -must- have some level of cleverness and involvement in his scams. If he didn’t he’d be bled dry.

        It seems like that’s strong evidence that he knew what was happening. Perhaps not in detail, but at least at the highest level. Which is bad enough.

        [As someone else pointed out, the Trump campaign didn’t have to do much work, did they? Putin’s hackers did it all.]

        • humanoid.panda

          Except we don’t know he does business with “mobsters,scumbags etc.” As far as we know, post his major bankrupcies, his income came from
          -TV deals.
          -Selling Trump-branded products
          -Letting developers use his name for branding purposes.
          -Running a drastically diminished real estate business.

          The fourth item is the only one where Russians were plausibly involved, and we simply have no idea whether this was a large component of Trump’s income in the last 15 years.

        • brewmn

          Donald Trump always makes money for his partners.

          Unless they happen to be a legitimate provider of design and construction services.

      • kvs

        Now, I, for once, think that all this stops somewhere at the Manafort level, and doesn’t implicate Trump directly, but still- it’s not some hallucination.

        You’re only looking at the Russia interfered with the election part of the story. There’s another set of threads to pull involving Trump’s business ties and investors, many of whom seem to either be in Eastern European organized crime or connected with it.

        The so-far unanswered question is whether and where all those threads connect somewhere. The best case scenario for Trump is probably that in exchange for being rescued from bankruptcy he unknowingly laundered money for the Russian mob, has adopted pro-Putin views to be au courant with his investors, and surrounded himself with American political advisers who are likewise sympathetic to Russian interests. That would merely out him as a well-compensated rube.

        But there’s a range of worse outcomes between that and him being directly compromised by Russia and complicit in their attempts to influence the election.

    • Davis X. Machina

      …look at the maze of Clinton conspiracies in 1992 and how they looked from the outside.

      Look at the 1994 elections…and you’ll see the immense harm they did to the GOP’s prospects.

      • Rob in CT

        Yeah, while I absolutely do not want the Democratic Party to go down the conspiracy theory rat hole, this idea that insane Clinton conspiracy theories hurt the GOP needs some backup. Sure looks like it helped them.

        It hurt the Country, to be sure, which is why I don’t want us to devolve too.

        • kvs

          Sure, pursuing conspiracy theories simply to cause political harm is irresponsible. But there are responsible way to conduct investigations into suspected behavior without sensationalizing it.

          At the moment, apart from Buzzfeed running the full Trump dossier, it’s Trump and his allies who are turning the story from a steady investigation into something more lurid.

    • CP

      1) What humanoid panda said. (Both times).

      2) At this point, the whining from the hard left about McCarthyism and red-baiting is objecting to an investigation. Taibbi’s apparently been trolling Twitter all weekend asking random people “can you prove Trump is a Russian spy? Can you? Well there, then!” When what the rest of us are calling for is simply to figure out what happened (as HP said, the circumstantial evidence is more than enough to warrant that). I mean, WTF?

      • kped

        He also took a comment from the hearings about Russians using bots to spread disinformation to Sanders supporters, and completly twisting that to “oh, so all 13m of Sanders voters are Putin stooges”, and arguing that with random twitter nobodies.

        Which is just such an awful interpretation of what that guys point was. I mean, the DNC hacks, done by Russia, came after the primary was done, and they most certainly were used to put a wedge between Sanders supporters and Clinton (remember the BS about some random DNC guy not liking Bernie in his emails…and then doing nothing about it? That was a fucking scandal to Bernie supporters). It doesn’t take 13M people believing stuff. It takes a few thousand here and there to make a difference, when combined with other stuff (Comey) in just a few states.

        Honestly, his twitter stuff about this reeks of “doth protest too much”. Like he is embarrassed that the DNC leaks (where nothing of importance was revealed) had such an effect on his infantile thinking.

    • random

      The bottom line is that there is a real chance for the Russia-themed conspiracy theories to backfire and there is a real intellectual danger

      Just describing this as a ‘conspiracy theory’ is already wrong (it approaches gaslighting territory really).

      It is beyond dispute that the Russian government actively conspired to help elect Trump. They broke into the DNC, flooded US social media with sock puppets, and had paid operatives placed at high levels in the Trump campaign. We’re not inventing a theoretical conspiracy to explain an external event, ala 9/11 or Sandyhook or Vince Foster’s suicide, but investigating an actual conspiracy on its own terms.

      • Davis X. Machina

        They broke into the DNC, flooded US social media with sock puppets, and had paid operatives placed at high levels in the Trump campaign.

        It's just international fellowship and fraternal cooperation in action. What do you have against a little mir i druzhba between the American and Russian peoples, anyways.

  • AdamPShort

    Chomsky once marveled that for some reason Americans are capable of lots of logical and analytic reasoning when the subject is sports that they become incapable of when the subject is politics.

    No one calls into a spurts talk show to yell at the host for talking about three point shooting when the “real issue” is pick-and-roll defense. If some crazy did, everyone could immediately see why that’s nonsensical.

    I personally think the Russia election stuff is overblown, but they are obviously hiding SOMETHING and it seems like it must be pretty bad. Knock yourselves out. I hope you get the bastard.

    I’m focused on state-level elections and i don’t find Russia to be distracting from that at all. In NoVa it may be helping us – people who work for the security state seem to be pretty upset about it and when you talk to them you hear about it. Everybody should be rowing in the same direction but not everybody needs to grab the same fucking oar.

    • djw

      No one calls into a spurts talk show to yell at the host for talking about three point shooting when the “real issue” is pick-and-roll defense. If some crazy did, everyone could immediately see why that’s nonsensical.

      Wait, isn’t that the basic formula for disagreement on sports talk radio; yelling at each other about whose theory of what’s wrong with the Knicks or Giants offense or whatever?

      • Rob in CT

        Right? I had the same thought!

      • ochospantalones

        Yes. “Why are you all talking about Eli when the real problem is the offensive line!” is an extremely common type of sports talk discussion.

      • brad

        Indeed. That seems like a huge whiff by Chomsky. I think sports talk radio has to be seen as a vital element to the toxic brew Rush Limbaugh developed, at the very least. I’ve seen very smart people made very stupid by sports fandom.

    • witlesschum

      I think that quote mainly proves that Chomsky doesn’t listen to much sports commentary. Skip Bayliss and Stephen A. Smith are every bit as big of contentless morons as Tom Friedman or Ron Fournier. There’s smarter sports commentary out there, just like there is in politics, but the mainstream ones are mainly simplistic and dumb.

      • He may have been listening exclusively to the high-toned sports talk shows of Boston at that era, on WEEI. (<–efgoldman bait)

        • Davis X. Machina

          Who pioneered the ‘it’s only sports radio’ political radio show, at least in the Boston market.

    • Hob

      Chomsky’s point was not that conversations about sports are universally or consistently well-reasoned; he would never have said that “no one calls into a sports talk show to [say something stupid]”. He just pointed out that people make a lot of effort to learn information about sports; they like to talk about it in detail; at least some sports-related conversations on talk radio are intelligent even when the speakers are amateurs; and this is all in stark contrast to how people tend to view politics and current events, where most discussion is “at a level of superficiality that’s beyond belief.” And, rather than being judgmental of Americans for putting so much energy into games, he proposed that that was a reasonable thing to do:

      “And I think that this concentration on such topics as sports makes a certain degree of sense. The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway, without a degree of organization that’s far beyond anything that exists now, to influence the real world. They might as well live in a fantasy world, and that’s in fact what they do. I’m sure they are using their common sense and intellectual skills, but in an area which has no meaning and probably thrives because it has no meaning, as a displacement from the serious problems which one cannot influence and affect because the power happens to lie elsewhere.”

      Here’s the whole passage. Keep in mind that this was 1987, pre-Internet and pre-national-Rush-Limbaugh (I think the modern strain of political talk radio, especially the wingnut conspiracy-theory kind where listeners are encouraged to accumulate and cross-reference a bunch of “facts” about relatively minor political figures, resembles sports fandom a little more than it used to).

      • SatanicPanic

        Yeah, this is what Chomsky was talking about- people invest a lot more effort into being analytical with sports talk than they are with politics. Not that they never try to change the subject, that’s the OP’s POV, not Chomsky’s. Michael Moore made a similar observation that anyone who thinks Americans aren’t capable of in-depth, fact-based discussion should listen to sports radio. Though I think that point is a bit less defensible.

        • kvs

          Yeah, this is what Chomsky was talking about- people invest a lot more effort into being analytical with sports talk than they are with politics. Not that they never try to change the subject, that’s the OP’s POV, not Chomsky’s. Michael Moore made a similar observation that anyone who thinks Americans aren’t capable of in-depth, fact-based discussion should listen to sports radio. Though I think that point is a bit less defensible.

          That kind of assessment makes me think neither one is much of a sports fan. That is, they’re not familiar enough with the subject to be able to evaluate the facts the callers are relying on, let alone their arguments.

          • Rob in CT

            Right. There are intelligent sports fans. They do not call in to sports radio shows. Blowhards do.

            • Tom in BK

              Agreed. To be charitable to Chomsky, though, it’s also a knock on the people who host sports radio. If blowhards can call in and challenge hosts “thoughtfully,” what does that suggest about the hosts of our national news media in this analogy?

              I swear I’m not pulling this completely out of my ass, given all that Chomsky has said about media coverage of politics throughout the years.

          • Hob

            Maybe so, but at least with the Chomsky piece, I don’t think his point was based on any assumption that the radio callers had particularly valid facts and arguments; just that they had a lot of them, and that they’d at least been paying attention to what happened in the games and who all the players were, to a degree that they wouldn’t do with other current events.

            I’m almost as uninformed about sports as a person can be, whereas I like to think I keep myself sort of well informed about US politics. But just from listening to co-workers talking about baseball, it’s pretty obvious that– regardless of whether their ideas about how baseball should be played are good ideas or not– in terms of sheer quantity of basic information that they can easily recall and all agree on, like who all the players are and what the notable things were that they did in the last half-dozen seasons, they know more about MLB teams than they or I know about the federal and state governments.

            • AdamPShort

              Exactly. And it is a sign of people who don’t really know of Chomsky except as a punch line to assume that when he spoke of people not paying attention to the factual record, not doing any analysis or critical thinking, etc. he was talking about people who would be considered “uninformed.” In fact he was speaking more broadly about the way that politics are discussed in mainstream culture, including (in many cases especially) by highly educated, informed people.

              It actually used to be fascinating to watch the old panel shows (maybe it’s still like this; I don’t watch them anymore) and notice the way if anyone ever referred to the factual record they were immediately shouted down so that the panel could return to what they were supposed to be doing – making predictions about things, discussing the hidden motives of various characters, etc. TV criticism, basically, masquerading as political analysis.

              You actually do occasionally see radio squawkers advance ideas that would be comfortable in this arena – talking about hiring a head coach whose name recognition will “make a splash” or something like that, but these kinds of ideas are usually quickly dismissed by others as nonsensical.

      • kvs

        The ratios of people who take the time to be genuinely informed to those who are not yet still have strongly held beliefs are probably similar in both sports and politics.

        And in fact, the shifts toward more analytics-oriented approaches in both are fairly concurrent.

        • ForkyMcSpoon

          In fact, they involve quite a bit of overlap in the people involved. 538 does a lot of sports analytics, and the politics and sports people are not mutually exclusive sets.

      • AdamPShort

        Thank you. Chomsky of course didn’t say the thing about 3pt shooting/p&r defense; that was me.

        I think actuary today’s sports commentary at least at the national level is basically devoid of analytic content, but that’s not really germane to the point. You explained it a lot better than i did.

  • libarbarian

    Anything that may allow for the legal execution of that family of diseased subhumans is not a distraction.

    • humanoid.panda

      Could we try and avoid eliminationonist language, even when talking about odious people? Pretty please?

      • libarbarian

        Well, since you said “pretty please” I guess I can try ……

        • Chetsky

          Instead of elimination, why not wish for …

          Dampnut, his Ivana-spawn, and SIL, to all get Herpes zoster in every sensory ganglion? It’s incurable, extremely extremely painful, and typically not life-threatening.

          But very painful.

          I think every one of his cronies, facilitators, and hangers-on should be so blessed. Oh god, I’d -pay- to see Bannonazi writhing in agony.

          • Q.E.Dumbass

            One of Flannery O’Connor’s stories resolves with the douchey protagonist finding out that what he thought was fatal TB was actually the typically-nonfatal brucellosis.Of course, fate wouldn’t be cruel enough if the Trumps aren’t both paralyzed and inflicted with permanent pharyngitis.

            (Personally, I’d go with the above two preconditions, and have them all injected with platypus venom all over).

            • Chetsky

              Well, the problem with “platypus venom all over” is that it requires agency, eh? Like the original punishment up-thread. Whereas, “wish they catch herpes zoster”, well, all it requires is Divine Providence, eh? And there’s no agency in that, since I’m an atheist. It was just Fate, Donnie!

              • Davis X. Machina

                Well, the problem with “platypus venom all over” is that it requires agency, eh?

                Nowhere as big a problem as it requiring a platypus.

  • ZakMcKrackenAndTheAlienMindbenders

    but what if she runs for mayor?
    what if the way is being cleared for her to run for mayor RIGHT NOW?
    WHAT THEN?

    • wjts

      WHAT IF SHE”S ALREADY THE MAYOR?

      • brad

        What if she’s already the President? Does she still have keys to the White House? Are there hidden passages the Secret Service is keeping secret for her?
        Bannon needs some spy tech and some meth, this must be answered.

        • wjts

          THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE (WHITE) HOUSE!

  • Well, exactly. Those people who think the Democrats need to change their approach just need to make that argument without being themselves “distracted” by the Russia issue. I mean, who’s actually saying “Never mind what the Democrats can do better, we need to focus on Russia”? And it’s not as if agreeing that Russia interfered in the election means you can’t argue for the Democrats to adopt a different approach. I get the impression that these people are so insular they don’t know or care how unconvincing their rhetorical maneuvers are to those outside their bubble worlds.

    • marduk

      I get the impression that these people are so insular they don’t know or care how unconvincing their rhetorical maneuvers are to those outside their bubble worlds.

      I think that’s it exactly.

      • humanoid.panda

        When you live in a world in which Hillary (or maybe Chelsea) is the 2020 frontrunner, its easy to see how the Russia stuff is stopping the Democrats from changing their way. Then again, if you live in that world, you are a clinical idiot.

        • ForkyMcSpoon

          If they do some more polls right now, Hillary could plausibly be the runner up after “someone else/undecided”.

          She came close to that in one poll, with 17%. That practically guarantees the nomination.

          • humanoid.panda

            I hope to God you are joking…

            • ForkyMcSpoon

              She did get 17% in a poll, compared to Bernie’s 20%.

              I don’t think either is likely to be the nominee in 2020.

  • Nick never Nick

    I think that the Internet magnifies the apparent disunity of Trump’s opposition. Beyond fairly determined people on comment threads, where they are usually outnumbered about 1 to 10, I don’t think most Democrats or Independents object to the investigation into Trump’s Russian ties. Sure, a lot of people have nuanced takes on it, but fundamentally everyone is OK with digging into Russia and what’s going on there.

    I thought the same thing about the ‘Bernie bro’ phenomenon, which might have reflected something real in the world, but not something that was as massive a problem as people seemed to think. My understanding now is that a lot of the Bernie bro’s seem to have been bots or some other social media subterfuge, and I think the lesson from that is that we need to be careful taking our cues from comment threads or Twitter. The Internet magnifies our voices, but it also distorts them in ways that we can’t see ourselves.

    • humanoid.panda

      I thought the same thing about the ‘Bernie bro’ phenomenon, which might have reflected something real in the world, but not something that was as massive a problem as people seemed to think. My understanding now is that a lot of the Bernie bro’s seem to have been bots or some other social media subterfuge, and I think the lesson from that is that we need to be careful taking our cues from comment threads or Twitter. The Internet magnifies our voices, but it also distorts them in ways that we can’t see ourselves.

      I subsrcibed to this school of thought for a long while, but changed my mind. To wit: when the 2008 primary ended, all but a tiny handful of CLinton voters started liking Obama almost immediately. While its true that 90% of Sanders voters ended up voting HRC, it’s also true they didn’t warm to her, and the elevated levels of support for Stein, Johnson-from-Left and write-ins indicate that this was a real and enduring phenomenon. Given the age skew of people involved, hard to see how Internet culture is not a culprit here.

    • UserGoogol

      And on the flip side of things, a lot of anti-anti-Russian leftists seem to be working from the assumption that Eric Garland’s more extreme Twitter ramblings are a representative sample of liberalism. There are some people with overly grandiose views of the role of Russia in politics and if you aren’t really paying attention to the broader spectrum of liberal ideas the ones that stand out might mislead you.

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        Who the fuck is that guy anyway? Does he have a Twitter verified mark just because of that garbled game theory thread?

  • Like I said, the Russia issue isn’t about hurting the president’s poll numbers. It’s about our foreign policy and the integrity of our elections and potential corruption and disloyalty in our public officials. But the polls do tell a story, and that story is that Trump isn’t winning this fight or this argument.

    The ‘Russia issue’ is the original sin from which all else flows.

  • Rob in CT
    • humanoid.panda

      It’s a decent piece, but it suffers from Chait’s narrative-mania. Yesterday, Trump was “winning the race wars”, today he is ruining the Republicans forever. Obama’s is the most transformational president ever, but Trump is building an ethno-nationalist majority! The campus PC wars are just like the struggles of the 1930s!

      There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that things are in flux, and its not clear what the future will bring.

      • CP

        There was something weird about that “winning the race wars!” narrative in the way it starts out by saying “until Trump, it looked like the GOP was getting better!” He then cites 1) one gesture by Marco Rubio for which he was immediately blasted by his entire party in 2013, and 2) a bunch of events from the 2000s allegedly showing that the GOP might be softening its racism… all of which were from before the 2008 election.

      • Rob in CT

        Yeah, I got some whiplash going from one piece to the next.

        • humanoid.panda

          Chait’s problem is that he is a very talented polemicist- who thinks he is Arthur J. Schlesinger.

      • kped

        Both things can be true, so I’m not sure what the problem is. He even brings up the piece here and shows how it can backfire:

        The power of ethnonationalism, which I tried to communicate in the story, is that it manipulates the most base and emotionally accessible ideas about politics. But that power is also a source of danger to the party that tries to weaponize it: If it backfires, it activates equally powerful emotions against it. And while the fight to preserve the American ideal from Trump’s ethnonationalism is hardly assured, there is every sign it will backfire.

        There can be competing narratives.

    • ochospantalones

      He’s not wrong that Trump has created significant problems for Republicans, and will continue to do so. But he’s really understating how important the federal courts are to modern conservatives. If they get Gorsuch and a bunch of 30 and 40 something appeals court judges they will be happy pretty much regardless of what else happens.

      If they get to replace RBG with another Gorsuch/Alito type they’ll consider the whole thing a massive victory even if President Warren sweeps into power with unified Democratic control of Congress in 2021.

      • Rob in CT

        … and they’ll probably be right.

        • ochospantalones

          Agreed. Unfortunately pointing this stuff out prior to the election was considered to be “blackmail” by wavering leftists.

          • humanoid.panda

            If they get to replace RBG with another Gorsuch/Alito type they’ll consider the whole thing a massive victory even if President Warren sweeps into power with unified Democratic control of Congress in 2021.

            But if no-one else dies or retires, 4 years of Republican judges won’t be enough to compensate for Obama/Warren judges.

            • ochospantalones

              I am not sure if you are including RBG’s seat being filled by a conservative or not. If it is, then a Roberts-Thomas-Alito-Gorsuch-Trump2 bloc against Sotomayor-Kagen-Warren1-Warren2 bloc is a huge win for conservatives. Roberts is the “swing” vote in this scenario, which is horrifying.

              Even granting Gorsuch is Trump’s only nominee, you have to keep in mind a Clinton victory would have led to her replacing Scalia, RBG, and probably Breyer. So even the worst case Trump scenario, where Warren replaces RBG, Breyer, and Kennedy is not any worse for conservatives. And they get 4+ more years of Kennedy as the swing vote rather than a solid five vote moderate/liberal bloc.

              • ForkyMcSpoon

                Yeah but I would add to that that Thomas is getting up there and lasting another 8 to 12 years is not a foregone conclusion for him.

        • random

          If the Dems get control of the Senate and Executive branch they can add Merrick Garland and another liberal justice to the court on a party-line vote.

          • ochospantalones

            Court-packing? It is hard to imagine a majority Democratic caucus with the votes to do that. Manchin is going to vote to add 10th and 11th justices to the court to please liberals? And you also have the old timers like Leahy who cherish their Senate traditions. I don’t see it happening.

            • ajay

              I interpreted that to mean that RBG (for example) will retire once she’s sure of a suitable replacement.

              • ochospantalones

                As I noted in another comment, even assuming Gorsuch is Trump’s only nominee there is no way conservatives end up worse off on the Supreme Court than if Clinton had won. Clinton was likely going to replace three justices, including Scalia. If Warren replaces three including Kennedy that’s not a loss for conservatives compared to a Clinton victory. And they get four more years of a conservative majority out of it.

            • SatanicPanic

              Two years ago I wouldn’t have guessed that they’d filibuster a relatively normal (for Republicans) SCOTUS nominee, but here we are. What’s the alternative? Allow the right to control the court for another two generations?

              • ochospantalones

                The Gorsuch filibuster is in reaction to Republicans escalating by refusing to vote on Garland. I think you would need another Republican escalation (beyond just filling a normally occurring vacancy) in order to trigger court-packing as a response.

                Like if the Republicans created a 10th seat and wrote into law that we would go back to nine on the next vacancy (essentially stealing the next vacancy from the next president), then Democrats would likely respond in kind. Or if Republicans impeached Kagen or some such.

            • humanoid.panda

              I can see a major crisis happening if climate crisis creates a Great Depression level consensus we need to act, now (Miami dissapears?), and a six-Scalia court stops the government from doing anything. Short of that, there won’t be court packing, or ignoring the court.

          • ForkyMcSpoon

            Garland is never getting on the court.

            No way a Democrat is appointing a 68+ y/o center-left judge to the court after this.

            The next appointees will be in their 40s or maybe early 50s, and more liberal than Garland. And a strong chance that they won’t be white and/or male.

    • kped

      I…didn’t know this stat:

      he 2016 election showed slight signs of erosion in the pattern when white voters under 30 supported Trump, 48–43.

      Seriously, white people…why are we embarrassing ourselves at every age group? Fuuuuuuuuck.

      • humanoid.panda

        Chait is wrong here btw: Romney won 18-29 white voters.

        • kped

          Ah, didn’t know that…

          …but my point still stands…come on fellow white people, can we not be majority asshole at every age group????

          • humanoid.panda

            The point definitely stands- but my datum is a good corrective to the whole “alt-right is groovy!” meme.

      • Rob in CT

        As Chait noted, young white voters voted R for a long time and only stopped in reaction to Dubya’s manifest fuckups.

        The hope was that this would lock in and continue. In 2016, it didn’t (which Chait kind of hand-waves away as minor).

        The hope is that white kids coming of age now are repulsed by Trump and the modern GOP, enough to overcome the siren song of white supremacy.

        We’ll see.

        • humanoid.panda

          As I note above, Chait is right to hand-waive this. In 2012, Romney won 51 percent of young white vote, Obama 44 percent. So Trump did worse with them than Romney. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some regional/educational variation that really helped Trump (he outright won the youth vote in Wisconsin/Minnesota).

          And of course, youth vote is a voting target. A lot of people who voted for Obama in 2008 are now in their 30s, and at least a 4-year old large cohort will form impressions under Trump’s presidency.

          Perhaps the best sign in that regard is that, when it all said and done, Trump has 22% approval among the 18-29 crowd- which implies he can’t be much higher than 35% among the white ones.

    • Solar System Wolf

      I’m sure Republicans already wish Clinton had won, because they were gearing up for a fun four years of investigations, impeachment votes, blocking SCOTUS nominees, and whining about health care without actually having to do anything about it.

      • humanoid.panda

        Plus, a reasonable chance of getting to 60 Senators in 2018.

  • humanoid.panda

    Off-topic, but this is pure genius.

    Next to her sits Linda Blarnik. Like the rusty hubcaps hanging on the wall behind her, she was made in America 50 years ago, back when this town made things, a time she still remembers fondly. She says she has had just enough of the “coastal elitist media who keep showing up to write mean things about my town and my life, like that thing just now where you said I was like a hubcap, yes you, stop writing I can see over your shoulder.” Mournfully a whistle blows behind her, the whistle of a train that does not stop in this America any longer.

    • NonyNony

      I have to admit the whole thing is really funny. But having it posted under a Washington Post title instead of the Onion is making my brain fizzle a bit.

      Glom Pfeffernitz lives in a rusty kettle. Trump’s plan will definitely repossess his kettle, but he does not believe me when I tell him this. “I just don’t think he’d do that,” Glom repeats. Glom’s priority is filling the lakes with waste because he remembers when he was a kid and the lakes used to glow, and he wants to get back to those great days. He says his No. 1 priority is keeping telephones away from the undeserving poor. Is everyone here messing with me?

    • cleek

      that’s perfect.

    • witlesschum

      It’s good stuff.

    • kped

      Dear god that is all gold. How come I haven’t heard of Alexandra Petri before? I hope I’m not disappointed if i go through her other stuff.

      • kped

        Their waiter is David Mattress, a sentient robot who will be shut down if Trump’s budget is put into practice. He loves Trump, insofar as love is possible for him. When asked “Don’t you realize the contradiction of this position?” the other regulars leap up and shout at me because the last time this question was posed to him, David short-circuited and emitted large quantities of smoke. “First that magazine writer,” Linda scolds me, gesturing to a table in the corner where six other journalists sit writing versions of this same article, “now you.

        I want to marry this article

      • Hogan

        This one is so good the WH mentioned it in their daily email blast. Even the liberal WaPo loves our budget!

        • kped

          …I saw people talk about that, but never read it.

          How did the white house not realize it was mocking them??

          s. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a “hard power budget” which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does.

          That’s in the first paragraph! I need to keep Ms Petri bookmarked.

          • Hob

            I’m pretty sure the answer to your question is that they didn’t read the article, just the headline. Seriously.

  • witlesschum

    I don’t know how much this describes anyone’s thinking but mine, but I’m not emotionally invested in Trump being entangled with Russia. He’s entangled with equally bad people as Putin here, like Sheldon Adelson or any number of GOP loving billionaires, and Trump is himself an equally bad person as Putin. Unsavory rich people basically know no country anyway and I hate them.

    I’m a big Ambrose Bierce fan as far as patriotism goes, so I’m not emotionally engaged by the idea of “them” messing with “our” election moreso than I am by things like superpacs of the Citizen United decision. They’re all bad things, but I’m not more bothered by the Russians being involved than by CompassGOP or whatever that name is.

    Personally, I’m in favor of investigating Trump’s Russian entanglements, as I think it’s both good politics and good policy, but I hear outrage from people about Russian election meddling that I don’t share.

    I also feel like I’m watching people insist that people have two heads when I hear Greenwald or Ames tweeting about “red-baiting” and how this outrage is all an excuse for sinister foreign policy goals.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      well, yeah. Russians gonna Russian. I have more emotional investment in being straight-up disgusted by first the people on “my” side who bought and re-sold the Russian line and secondly the people on the other side who are doing the “see/speak/hear no evil” routine in regard to trump. The latter are particularly loathsome in that each and every one of us knows if anything remotely like this had come up about Clinton, or Sanders, or Martin Who He O’Malley those exact same people would have hung a Dem by their heels from the Washington Monument by now

    • ajay

      He’s entangled with equally bad people as Putin here, like Sheldon Adelson or any number of GOP loving billionaires, and Trump is himself an equally bad person as Putin.

      Trump really, really isn’t. Even if you just confine yourself to the key “number of major urban centres ordered demolished with area bombardment” metric. Putin actually has his political enemies murdered in the street.

    • Morse Code for J

      If a sickly authoritarian government successfully intervened in our election just so it could reap a quid pro quo from an elected President who’s been in the pocket of its associated bankers for years, that should be horrifying to us, regardless of which government it is.

      • Origami Isopod

        Yes. This has jack to do with “Russophobia.”

    • Origami Isopod

      I was just coming here to share that. I literally threw my hands in the air and yelled “WOOO!”

    • kped

      This is insane…translated, this is their spin:

      “Bannon was on the council to keep an eye on Flynn, the guy we thought was good enough to sit on the security council, but also didn’t trust…you know, the guy who Rice had unamsked, but she was wrong to do that, only we are allowed not to trust the guy…but he was still cool, so even though we didn’t trust him we wanted him to have all the secrets”.

      Seriously…what the fuck?

      • Hob

        That may not make sense in any logical or ethical way, but I can at least see what they’re saying and why they would say it (i.e. they have some understanding that the Flynn thing looks bad).

        What I still don’t get is the part about how Bannon was supposed to “de-operationalize” the NSC. I’m assuming that that has some meaning, since I don’t see any news articles or commentators going “WTF does that mean?” (and at least one piece, on Lawfare I think, said something like “yeah, it had gotten too operationalized”), but I don’t have a clue.

  • liberalpragmatist

    Somewhat OT, but still relevant to the “concern-trolling” charge:

    Anyone read this WP piece “Democrats are still ignoring the people who could have helped them defeat Trump, Ohio party leaders say”

    One by one, members of the Mahoning County Democratic Party poured out their frustrations: Just months after the presidential election, they felt folks like them were being forgotten — again. The party’s comeback strategy was being steered by protesters, consultants and elitists from New York and California who have no idea what voters in middle America care about.

    But worst of all, they said, the party hadn’t learned from what they saw as the biggest message from November’s election: Democrats have fallen completely out of touch with America’s blue-collar voters.

    “It doesn’t matter how much we scream and holler about jobs and the economy at the local level. Our national leaders still don’t get it,” said David Betras, the county’s party chair. “While Trump is talking about trade and jobs, they’re still obsessing about which bathrooms people should be allowed to go into.”

    The whole thing is worth a read, but it seemed to disprove the very argument it was making.

    Look, I agree Democrats need to do a better job appealing to rural and working-class white voters. Yes, we need to do more policy-wise to bring jobs, investment, and higher living standards to post-industrial areas. Yes, we need to be more skeptical and realistic about trade agreements and do more on anti-trust and concentration policy.

    But it’s hard to read this and not think that the main driver for a lot of these voters is a backlash based on white/rural/male/working-class identity politics. These voices keep arguing that the party is distracted by things like the refugee ban, “bathroom bills,” or BLM, and that we should instead by focusing on “jobs.”

    The obvious subtext is that if Democrats campaign on or bring attention to issues that are relevant to minorities or women that reads to these — largely white and male — voters as though they’re being ignored

    • Rob in CT

      they’re still obsessing about which bathrooms people should be allowed to go into.”

      It’s not Democrats who are obsessing over that. It’s Republicans who are, with Dems resisting their nastiness.

      Overall, yeah, there’s absolutely that subtext here. Quit screwing around with all that silly stuff and do what we want.

      Which, you know, ok – everybody tends to think that way at least from time to time. Pay more attention to MY issues!

      But “jobs” is not some simple thing. Oh, let’s just focus on jobs and boom, jobs will appear and things will be great. Yeah, no. “Jobs” (macroeconomics & trade) is way, way more complicated than that, and good policy from the top can only do so much.

      Whereas the culture war stuff is a values fight. Fairly simple, really. You win or you lose. And it’s the sort of thing the government really does control, as opposed to just influence.

      • ForkyMcSpoon

        “Jobs” doesn’t even mean anything.

        Does it mean tax cuts? Does it mean debt-financed infrastructure? Does it mean cutting regulation? Does it mean creating or modifying regulations (minimum wage, overtime, etc.)? Does it mean investments in green energy?

        Which of those things will get people out to vote? Which of those things will work? Are they the same things?

        If people want to hear “I’m going to bring back coal” – well, that’s not going to happen. So do they want us to lie?

        Just saying “focus on jobs” is pretty unhelpful and really just amounts to, in this case, “stop talking about that shit I don’t care about.”

        And another unacknowledged problem, of course, is that Trump’s steak was a lie. Sure, Clinton probably should’ve talked more about her economic plans (although certainly her policies on childcare and healthcare and such had significant implications for people’s bank accounts). But it seemed to me that Trump would’ve just made up more lies about his policies and the media would’ve let him (that infrastructure plan which seems unlikely to materialize… how many Trump voters really thought a trillion dollar infrastructure plan was coming down the pike?).

        (And of course, those “side issues” affect jobs… just not white male jobs as much as other groups.)

        • If people want to hear “I’m going to bring back coal” – well, that’s not going to happen.

          If Trump was serious about bringing back coal, he could—in his role of Commander in Chief—order the Navy to retrofit all its ships to be coal-burners! This would be also an enormous economic boost to the Military-Industrial Complex, since a quick back-of-no-envelope calculation suggests that (for instance) every aircraft carrier would have to be accompanied by a vessel of approximately equal size devoted entirely to carrying coal. And R&D on coal-powered airplanes would be another tremendous shot-in-the-footarm for our aeronautics sector. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the Blue Devils blowing coal in tight formation!!!

          Disclaimer: my father sailed to Nicaragua in 1931 on the old Rochester, last of the coal-burners (decommissioned in Subic Bay in 1938, and scuttled there in 1941), so I may be said to have a (lame, old) dog in this fight.

          • Hogan

            That would also require a worldwide network of coaling stations. Second Falklands War!

          • ajay

            You are a genius.

            “Oh but you can’t be serious, you can’t have a coal-burning submarine” some WEAK person is likely to whine. That is TOTALLY FAKE.
            You can have them, and as an added bonus Jeff Sessions is just going to love the name.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resurgam

      • Hogan

        It’s not Democrats who are obsessing over that.

        Are you sure? My internet tells me that’s all Clinton talked about in 2016.

    • D.N. Nation

      they’re still obsessing about which bathrooms people should be allowed to go into

      And also, black people keep obsessing over being able to eat at Woolworths counters, while some of us don’t even have the money to eat out!

      • they’re still obsessing about which bathrooms people should be allowed to go into

        And also, black people keep obsessing over being able to eat at Woolworths counters, while some of us don’t even have the money to eat out!

        Well, to be fair, back in the mists of time a little matter of which bathrooms people should be allowed to go was also an obsession of those uppity blacks.

    • Origami Isopod

      Democrats have fallen completely out of touch with America’s white male blue-collar voters.

      There. Fixed.

      • CP

        It really is mind-boggling the extent to which people say the last three words, simply assume that the first two are implied, and don’t even see that it’s a problem.

      • Rob in CT

        Sadly, there was a huge shift toward Trump amongst white female WC* voters this time too.

        * – as always, I’m not sure if “no college degree” is an exact fit for “working class” but anyway…

        • Origami Isopod

          Oh, there was, but “working class” is usually interpreted to mean blue-collar, not pink-collar.

    • humanoid.panda

      The most amazing thing about this quote is that there has been about zero national political attention to trans issues since the election – and the only big story on that front is Cooper’s shameful surrender on HB2. There are only 3 readings to what the chairman is saying

      1. The trans issue is now a myth on the level of hippies spitting on veterans.
      2. What he really means is that party needs to backdown on “identity politics” but can’t say it minority heavy area.
      3. He knows that “democrat in Ohio saying liberals ignore real Americans” is like heroin equivalent for journalists

      • Rob in CT

        I think it was likely more that he wanted to toss out an example of something trivial that the Party is supposedly focusing on to the exclusion of the Important Stuff he thinks they’re neglecting, and trans rights was what he came up with.

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