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Some Loving Tributes To Roger Ailes

[ 65 ] May 19, 2017 |

Taibbi:

Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate. When the former daytime TV executive and political strategist looked across the American continent, he saw money laying around in giant piles. He knew all that was needed to pick it up was a) the total abandonment of any sense of decency or civic duty in the news business, and b) the factory-like production of news stories that spoke to Americans’ worst fantasies about each other.

Like many con artists, he reflexively targeted the elderly – “I created a TV network for people from 55 to dead,” he told Joan Walsh – where he saw billions could be made mining terrifying storylines about the collapse of the simpler America such viewers remembered, correctly or (more often) incorrectly, from their childhoods.

In this sense, his Fox News broadcasts were just extended versions of the old “ring around the collar” ad – scare stories about contagion. Wisk was pitched as the cure for sweat stains creeping onto your crisp white collar; Fox was sold as the cure for atheists, feminists, terrorists and minorities crawling over your white picket fence.

Ailes launched Fox in 1996 with a confused, often amateurish slate of dumb programs cranked out by cut-rate and often very young staffers. The channel was initially most famous for its overt shallowness (“More News in Less Time” was one of its early slogans) and its Monty Python-style bloopers. But the main formula was always the political scare story, and Fox quickly learned to mix traditional sensationalist tropes like tabloid crime reporting with demonization of liberal villains like the Clintons.

[…]

Ailes picked at all these scabs, and then when he ran out of real storylines to mine he invented some that didn’t even exist. His Fox was instrumental in helping Donald Trump push the birther phenomenon into being, and elevated the practically nonexistent New Black Panthers to ISIS status, warning Republicans that these would-be multitudinous urban troublemakers were planning on bringing guns to the GOP convention.

The presidency of Donald Trump wouldn’t have been possible had not Ailes raised a generation of viewers on these paranoid storylines. But the damage Ailes did wasn’t limited to hardening and radicalizing conservative audiences.

Chotiner:

Ailes leaves behind one of the largest legacies of any media figure of the past century: He made our country nastier, stupider, cruder, and more bigoted. Even as the memory of Ailes the man fades, we will always be able to look back on what he built.

[…]

But Ailes was not some phony elitist playing a con on the rubes. No, he really loved degrading people, and he held the same resentments as the pathetic viewers whose worlds he manipulated. Indeed, one of the special things about Ailes was the depth of his hatred, and the broad-ranging reach of his racism. Some bigots confine their disgust to a single group, or religion; Ailes, however, was never so limited. Who did the man dislike? Muslims? Yep. Black Americans? Check. Jews? Uh-huh. Hispanics? Yes. Fox, under Ailes’ leadership, became a leader in spewing all these different forms of bigotry. He was a visionary.

Ailes also took a special interest in the careers of much of the female talent at Fox News. His leadership style was to sexually harass female employees and ensure a grotesque environment at the network, which nicely mimicked the misogyny Fox watchers could see on their television screens every day. Elizabeth Ailes’ statement recalling the millions of lives her husband affected calls to mind Stalin’s line about one death being a tragedy, and millions of deaths being a mere statistic. Ailes’ family and friends should never forget that their beloved Roger ruined individual lives, too.

However, one of our overcompensated and underachieving elites has a counterpoint:

“Jimmy Savile was a wonderful teevee host and one of the most generous contributors to children’s hospitals ever. Serial molestation of children not only way to remember him.”

…as a commenter notes, Gary’s obit is excellent.

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Hey Joe. Where you going with that foot in your mouth?

[ 62 ] May 19, 2017 |

Well dig! I’m going down to SkyBridge Alternatives, to make people wonder if I know what I’m talking about.

Speaking at the SALT hedge fun conference in Las Vegas, Biden told attendees that he believed he could have done a better job taking on President Trump on the campaign trail, CNN reported.

“I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate,” Biden remarked.

Perhaps the man who twice failed to clinch a nomination for Democratic president is not the best judge of these things?

Friday Potpourri

[ 38 ] May 19, 2017 |

Flashback Friday: Chris Cornell, RIP

[ 70 ] May 19, 2017 |

Yesterday Chris Cornell committed suicide at the age of 52. It is indeed a very sad day for rock music. We’ve lost not only a singular voice, but also many in the rock scene have lost a dear friend. The lead singer of Soundgarden in the 1990’s and Audioslave in the 00’s, Chris toured and sang with many other icons including Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam. Even until his death, he was still working as a solo artist and playing concerts.

I thought about compiling a list of Black Hole Sun covers, for which Postmodern Jukebox has a great one as does the soundtrack to Westworld. In my research, I discovered that Chris was actually a great cover artist on his own. So it feels much more fitting to remember his talent in the way he honored other artists and added his own value to their songs. There are so many of them, so I’ll post the videos of my top three and give you a list of links at the bottom.

“Nothing Compares 2 U”, Prince

“I Will Always Love You”, Whitney Houston

“Redemption Song”, Bob Marley

This is from his appearance on Jimmy Fallon back in 2011, but there is also a very sweet version of this song he performed with his daughter during a live concert in 2015.

The Telegraph reports that Cornell’s last performed song was from Led Zeppelin, “In My Time of Dying”. If there is such a video, I’m hesitant to post it because it would feel like romanticizing his suicide.

Other honorable mention that wouldn’t fit in this post:

“Hotel California”, Eagles

“Seven Nation Army”, White Stripes (performed with Audioslave)

“Billie Jean”, Michael Jackson

“Thank You”, Led Zeppelin

“One (U2 Music with Metallica lyrics)”

“Thunder Road”, Bruce Springsteen

“Long As I Can See The Light”, Credence Clearwater Revival

“Imagine”, John Lennon

The Ballad of Holy Joe

[ 104 ] May 19, 2017 |

As Duncan also observed, in addition to the litany of other negative things that can be said about him Joe Lieberman is almost comically unqualified and unfit to be head of the FBI:

Lieberman lacks the conventional qualifications for an FBI director, never having served as a law enforcement agent or federal prosecutor. He lacks the kind of administrative experience that one normally looks for in an agency chief. At the age of 75, he’s also very much on the old side for a 10-year appointment. But “Trump bonded with Lieberman” at their meeting on Wednesday, according to Politico, and though personal rapport between the president and the FBI director has not traditionally been considered necessary or even desirable, Trump enjoys breaking with tradition.

Since leaving the Senate, Lieberman has landed as an attorney as Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, whose founding partner Marc Kasowitz happens to be Donald Trump’s lawyer on litigation matters.

For the president to fire the FBI director in an effort to stymie an investigation into his associates, and then replace him with an unqualified successor who happens to be an employee of his personal lawyer, seems a wee bit fishy to me; indeed, Politico quotes a senior Democratic aide as saying it “could be an issue for Democrats.” Another issue for Lieberman will be that grassroots progressive activists hate his guts and have for years.

It goes without saying that anyone who would take this job under these circumstances is not fit to have it. But tying himself to Trump would be an even fitter cap to Lieberman’s career than his decision to torpedo the Medicare buy-in he had previously supported for the sole purpose of pissing off liberals.

Our younger readers may not remember just how besotted the national media was with Joe Lieberman. His self-serving sanctimoniousness was celebrated, like the cut-and-paste virtue jobs assembled by Gamblin’ Bill Bennett. Putting the smarmy prick on the ticket earned Al Gore basically the only positive press coverage he got during the 2000 campaign. And outside of Connecticut, 2004 demonstrated that the media was pretty much his only constituency. One would hope that this would take most of the varnish off, but on the other hand as Paul Ryan demonstrates some pols can survive anything. I’m sure that for the Fourniers and Haperins of the world Donald Trump will become president for the seventh time if he tabs Lieberman.

Q: Does Obamacare have a curse on it that turns all who try to overturn it into bumbling dimwits who can’t tell their ass from their elbow?

[ 93 ] May 18, 2017 |

A: Of course not. They were already Republicans to begin with.

House Republicans barely managed to pass their Obamacare repeal bill earlier this month, and they now face the possibility of having to vote again on their controversial health measure.

House Speaker Paul Ryan hasn’t yet sent the bill to the Senate because there’s a chance that parts of it may need to be redone, depending on how the Congressional Budget Office estimates its effects. House leaders want to make sure the bill conforms with Senate rules for reconciliation, a mechanism that allows Senate Republicans to pass the bill with a simple majority.

Republicans had rushed to vote on the health bill so the Senate could get a quick start on it, even before the CBO had finished analyzing a series of last-minute changes. The CBO is expected to release an updated estimate next week.

The score for this part of the post should be the sound of Paul Ryan stepping on rakes, walking around with a metal bucket on one foot, falling down stairs and so on.

“Unaware,” said Representative Jeff Denham of California, with noticeable surprise Thursday, when advised that his party leaders still hadn’t sent the bill over to the Senate. Denham was one of the House Republicans who ended up voting for the measure, after earlier in the week opposing it.

“I am on the whip team and we have a lot of conversations, but we have not had that one. So I am going to look into it,” said Denham, a member of the party’s vote-counting team.

This part of the post should be scored to the sound of Ryan insisting he sent it ages ago while making that face that he thinks is sincere, but really makes him look like a bloodhound that’s planning to go for your neck.

According to several aides and other procedural experts, if Republicans send the bill to the Senate now and the CBO later concludes it doesn’t save at least $2 billion, it would doom the bill and Republicans would have to start their repeal effort all over with a new budget resolution. Congressional rules would likely prevent Republicans from fixing the bill after it’s in the Senate, the aides said.

If Republican leaders hold onto the bill until the CBO report is released, then Ryan and his team could still redo it if necessary. That would require at least one more House vote of some sort.

I think it safe to say that if Lyin’ Ryan has to tell his party they have to vote on the AHCA again, House Republicans will hold a raffle. The grand prize will be the ability to chuck him in the Potomac with a dozen life-sized bronze busts of Reagan tied to his feet. Second prize winner gets to unleash the snakeheads.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Thursday that the delay is further proof that Republicans voted for this bill “before they knew what was in it.”

The speaker and other Republicans urgently pushed their May 4 floor vote, despite a polarized Republican conference, using the frantic final hours to win over holdouts. Even so, 20 Republicans still voted against the bill. After the bill squeaked through, Ryan and other senior Republicans dashed to the White House for an unusual celebration of a one-chamber vote.

Grotesque and stupid is not spelled u-n-u-s-u-a-l.

That 217-213 tally appeared to be a rare legislative victory for them and President Donald Trump, even if the vote was a difficult one for some rank-and-file House Republicans, who had qualms. Some have since been hit with protests in their districts and anger from constituents.

Now, two weeks later, the American Health Care Act, H.R. 1628, hasn’t been transmitted from the House to the Senate, according to Senate Bill Clerk Sara Schwartzman.

Apparently the Senate is experiencing a dearth of fucks about this bill and has not asked for it.

The Earl of Hotdog

[ 389 ] May 18, 2017 |
Pictured: A sandwich

Pictured: A sandwich

Sandwich Recognition Disorder or SRD is a serious personality disorder recognized by the American Medical Association. Its symptoms include:

  • Inability to decipher between sandwiches and other foodstuffs
  • The desire to describe all foodstuffs as sandwiches
  • A tendency to describe food items like Spaghetti and Marinara as “deconstructed sandwiches.”
  • A libertine, anything-goes attitude toward sandwiches and other foodstuffs

To be clear, a sandwich is is a flat or flat-ish conveyance for meats, veggies, fruits, condiments, and cheeses. These items must be…sandwiched between two bready substances.

Things that are not sandwiches:

  • Pizza
  • Hot dogs
  • Pho
  • Spaghetti
  • Erotic doodles of America’s sweetheart, Jennifer Anniston, lovingly caressing a carousel horse
  • Marble obelisks
  • The delicious skin-plumping tears of white people

If you recognize the symptoms of SRD in you or someone you love, please get professional help immediately.

Since the Beginning of Time, Democrats Have Yearned to Destroy the Legitimacy of Democratic Elections

[ 159 ] May 18, 2017 |

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You may be surprised to know that I did not find Prof. Barnett’s twitter thread arguing that people arguing that Trump may have committed impeachable offenses out of a desire to undermine democratic transfers of power entirely convincing:

Can somebody point me to the big Democratic push to impeach any president between Nixon and Trump? I’m having trouble finding the evidence.

To state the obvious, the idea that this was a normal election and Trump is a normal president and anyone suggesting otherwise disrepstc the electoral process is absurd. No important Democrat suggested that Trump wasn’t legally entitled to the office, but the fact that he attained office only because of an undemocratic selection process is a significant fact that does undermine Trump’s legitimacy. People are talking about impeachment not because Trump is a Republican but because he’s doing stuff like telling the director of the FBI to stop investigations and then firing the Director of the FBI to obstruct justice and admitting he was doing it. George H.W. Bush didn’t do this kind of thing, and hence there was no talk of impeaching him. Barnett is trying to preemptively protect Trump and his party from the unique problems his election and tenure in office presents by pretending that Democrats say the same things about every Republican president. Sorry, not only is this dog not going to hunt it’s not going to wake up from its nap.

Why Do All of These Authoritarians Keep Ending Up in the Trump Administration?

[ 74 ] May 18, 2017 |

Trump-Sheriff-Clarke-Milwaukee-Twitter-Major-Garrett-575x323

My colleague Shakezula has already discussed this, but David Clarke’s appointment assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security is a big enough deal to be worth more discussion. It is almost impossible to overstate how unfit he is for any law enforcement position, let alone one of the top federal ones:

However, if the premature reports are true, Clarke’s promotion to federal office would be a major affront to human and civil rights. In 2013, Clarke received the “Sheriff of the Year Award” from Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, an anti-government organization whose founder, former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, believes,“The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists. It is our own federal government.” In 2015, he suggested suspending habeus corpus to charge individuals “on the internet spewing jihadi rhetoric,” and them “with treason,” and “indefinitely” detain them at Guantanamo Bay—a number that he estimates could be one million people. Since last April, four detainees in his jail have died, including a newborn baby and a mentally ill inmate who was deprived of water for seven days. He has faced two federal lawsuits since December for the deaths. Earlier this month, a grand jury recommended criminal charges against seven staff members at Clarke’s Milwaukee jail.

Clarke has called Black Lives Matter a “domestic hate group,” believes that “there is no police brutality in America,” says there is a “war on cops,” and has called protesters upset about Trump’s election “entitled, coddled, petulant snowflakes.” He also called the Women’s March a “creep show.”

Oh, in addition to the many other horrible things his department frames innocent people to cover up their own misconduct.  He will, in other words, fit right in with the Attorney General.

There are evidently a number of different metrics one could used to assess the authoritarian tendencies of the Trump administration. Myself, I would consider “the number of authoritarians nominated to high-level federal positions” as one of the more important.

Scandals and the American Party System

[ 202 ] May 18, 2017 |

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I argue that while the facts uncovered by the Mueller investigation will probably be as bad as Watergate and could well be much worse, given current partisan polarization the political effects are likely to be more like Iran-Contra:

The most common analogy will be Watergate, and the evidence that Trump committed obstruction of justice will only make the comparisons more common, given that this offense is exactly what did Nixon in. It is possible that Mueller will find something so damaging that Trump will be forced to resign or the necessary bipartisan supermajority in the Senate would plausibly convict him if he was impeached by a majority of the House.

Possible, but probably quite unlikely. Nixon’s resignation occurred in a very different political context. Not only did the Democratic Party control Congress, but the Republican Party had a much larger moderate wing than it does today. It is highly unlikely that President Nixon would have been forced out of office if he was working with today’s Congress. Mueller might find something so damaging that congressional Republicans conclude that it’s in their interests to abandon Trump. But I strongly doubt that confirmation of the obstruction of justice, which Trump all but admitted to already, would be sufficient.

As Washington Post political reporter David Weigel shrewdly observed, a comparison that is likely to be more apt is the Reagan administration’s Iran-Contra scandal. The discovery that officials within the administration had facilitated the sale of arms to Iran partly in order to illegally fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua and partly to secure the freedom of some hostages was a substantial embarrassment, and lower-level officials were implicated in illegal activity. But it was never proven that Reagan himself was involved, and he was never seriously threatened with impeachment. With partisan polarization having intensified, this is probably the more likely scenario even if Trump’s actions turn out to be more like Nixon’s than Reagan’s.

Iran-Contra didn’t lead to Reagan’s removal, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t matter. Reagan’s approval rating dropped by roughly 20 points after the illegal arms deal was revealed. This caused the Reagan administration to pivot in a more moderate direction. Most notably, the collapse of Reagan’s popularity helped contribute to the defeat of Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, which in turn almost certainly saved Roe v. Wade from being overruled.

Even if Trump survives Mueller’s investigation, then, it is still likely to hobble his administration politically. His already-weak approval ratings are more likely to get worse than better. This will make it harder for Republicans to retain the House in the 2018 midterms, and will also hobble the passage of the party’s already unpopular legislative agenda. Indeed, we may look back and conclude that Trump’s decision to fire Comey saved 24 million people from having their health insurance taken away.

Roger Ailes

[ 127 ] May 18, 2017 |

Roger Ailes has died.  Ailes’s gifts to the American public included Richard Nixon’s presidency and Fox News: indeed it’s fair to say that the ascension of Donald Trump was the culmination of his life’s work.   In addition to his polluting of public life with a constant stream of right wing propaganda in the guise of legitimate journalism, Ailes was a serial sexual harasser of his employees.

And although de mortuis nil nisi bonum be a maxim of our profession, feel free to make an exception in this case.

 

Like a well oiled machine

[ 65 ] May 18, 2017 |

Balloon Juice provides the context that the cunning planners at WL left out.

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