Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Podcasts? How Do They Work?

When I saw this headline in The Week, I was confused --
How a new generation of left-wing podcasters are dethroning Rush Limbaugh and right-wing talk radio
-- because I don't remember anyone from The Week dropping by our hobbit hole to interview the cast and crew of The Professional Left Podcast.  Or even calling us on the "telephone" machine now that we have regular, party-line service here in the middle of Middle America,

At any rate, at first I was excited, because apparently "we" are 'sploding!  And who doesn't like to be 'sploding!
...Starting with Rush Limbaugh in the late 1980s, influential personalities have projected their grievances and biases onto millions of listeners, who have rewarded these hosts with wealth and incredible influence in Republican politics. Efforts to deliberately build an alternative network of left-wing radio shows have all ended in the same way: with failure, none more spectacular than the 2010 implosion of Air America.

Suddenly, though, Limbaugh has company.

Since the election, subscribership to a series of left-leaning podcasts has exploded...
Then I read a little further and became a little less excited:
The most prominent is Pod Save America, the brainchild of former Obama administration speechwriters Jon Favreau and Jon Lovett, as well as former Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor. Episodes draw anywhere from 800,000 to 1.4 million listeners. Those numbers rival major cable programs, and in some cases eclipse household name shows like Morning Joe and Anderson Cooper 360.

The Pod Save empire also includes programs like Pod Save the World and Pod Save the People, all of which have strong numbers. Vox's podcasts, including The Weeds and The Ezra Klein Show, are also extremely popular...
The left's new stars are actual experts in public policy — people like former Obama strategist David Axelrod (of The Axe Files) — more than people who are famous for being famous.
It appears that as long as you're a former Obama speechwriter ... or you can get Jeff Bezos to finance your new media platform ... or you're a former Obama speechwriter ... or you're a former Obama spokesperson ... or a former Obama political chieftain ... or a former Obama speechwriter ... this new "podcast" thingie may open a door into a whole new future.

Because it is indeed undeniably true that the Left needs a reliable way to reach a broad and diverse audience as inexpensively and effectively as the Right used talk radio:
Conservative dominance of the airwaves allowed the right to do one of the most important things in public life: "agenda-setting." By communicating to conservative listeners what is important and what they should care about, Limbaugh and his fellow movement conservatives were able to direct which issues their listeners would feel most passionately about. Not only that, but they also engaged in "framing," which means they were not just setting the agenda but also offering a set of preferred options about how to achieve it.

In a 2000 study, David Barker and Kathleen Knight found that Limbaugh was able to move the needle on the issues he was most hopping mad about at any given time, and that his listeners showed "hostility toward those items beyond what can be accounted for by ideology, party identification, exposure to other conservative messages, affect for Limbaugh, or a host of other factors." Limbaugh's withering attacks on "the beautiful people," as well as "feminazis" (a disgusting term he helped popularize on the right), for example, were so effective that this year the scholar Robert Brown deemed him the "president of talk radio."

That is incredible influence for someone who possesses no meaningful advanced background in politics or policy....
And with the ubiquity of smartphones, this new "podcast" doohicky may  finally begin to do for the Left what talk radio did for the Right: defeat the limits of geography and allow us to reach people wherever they are, from wherever we are.
Right-wing radio's success was partly geographic. Republicans, who, very broadly speaking, tend to live outside of major cities and prefer the car-centric lifestyle of ranch houses, strip malls, and sprawl, spend more time driving to work than the average Democrat, making them available in huge numbers for over-the-air or satellite radio programs piped directly into their cars. By contrast, many urban-dwelling liberals walk, bike, or take public transit to work, and in many major cities, radio signals as well as the internet are unavailable on trains. Podcasts resolve this issue by downloading automatically onto smartphones for all subscribers, who can listen to the show even when they are being shunted to work 50 feet underground.
Provided "wherever we are" is Los Angeles.
Or New York.
Or Washington D.C. :-)

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Morning Comin' Down: So Say We All Edition

What is there to add but...

If you need a little more, head on over to Jay Rosen's house for a brief, intense course is how journalism's own code has created a closed loop that has become a noose:
Normalizing Trump: An incredibly brief explainer 
A conflict in the journalist's code was created by a president wholly unfit for the job.

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Coates vs Brooks


In case you were wondering why we as a country are not having that long-overdue NCAR (national conversation about race) take a look at how differently these two men view the election of Donald Trump.

Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times is the apotheosis of undeserved elite white privilege.  He is one of the media's most influential Very Serious Persons and a gatekeeper of the terms and limits of every national political debate.  And he visibly cringes at the thought of any serious nation political conversation that gets anywhere near the subject of race, racism and -- surprise! -- white privilege:

Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most insightful and unflinchingly honest writers about race in American politics and culture.  His take on the centrality of race in election of Donald J. Trump is true and tragic and irrefutable (NBC killed the previous link due to copyright issues.  Here is a new one that looks durable):

You might recall that just two years ago, Mr. Brooks took it upon himself to publicly scold Mr. Coates' for "dissolving the [American] dream under the acid of an excessive realism". Mr. Brooks then his ass sawed off and handed to him on the good china up one side of the internet and down the other:

#RichWhiteLivesMatterToo  -- Update

Mr. Brooks has written a column today.

It is entitled:
Listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates While White
And it is quite possible that the word "entitled" has never more comprehensively encompassed both of its definitions:


transitive verb
to give a title to : designate

believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
As The Twitter has already noted, Mr. Brooks is in for a very long day...

Well Mr. Brooks, the acid of excessive realism that dissolves the American Dream has finally arrived. It arrived leading a cheering mob of bigots and imbeciles formerly known as the Party of Lincoln and it looks like this.

And while I do not think that even Mr. Brooks is stupid enough to publicly cross swords with Mr. Coates again any time soon, in the black-and-white contrast between their reactions to the election of President Stupid you can see the fatal flaw in our media laid bare.

Our media is in the hands of gatekeepers who are determined to abort any discussion about anything that threatens their privilege, their status as gatekeeper or the Both Sides Do It narrative that keeps their whole world propped up.  And until that changes -- until talking openly about our real problems becomes something the media works hard to accomplish and not avoid -- nothing else will change.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Professional Left Podcast #406

"Vanity is the quicksand of reason."
-- George Sand
This week in addition to posting this week's here for you're listening pleasure, I'm once again asking everyone to go to our NEW website -- http://www.proleftpod.com -- to listen to the show.

There are links to donate to our podcast work at that site, as well as a links to our swingin' Zazzle merch store,  our respective blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Kittehs! and much more. Many thanks once again to @theologop for setting us up so beautifully


The Professional Left is brought to you by our wholly imaginary "sponsors" -- 

-- and real listeners like you!

David Brooks Is a Monster

"What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people's faces as unfinished as their minds." -- Eric Hoffer

As I believe I have mentioned once or twice before, at the apex of American punditocracy there sits a monster name Mr. David Brooks.

Yes he is a five-foot tall, slightly stooped myopic dope.  Yes, he writes and speaks almost exclusively in exasperated sighs, marmish scolds and saccharine suck-ups to wealth and power.  Yes, he is the love child of Uriah Heep and Ellsworth Toohey, and when he is not sighing and scolding he is making plaintive, thinly-disguised pleas for the pretty girls at the party to recognize his whinging moral superiority as sexy and cool.

And he is also a monster.

He is a monster who has been employed at heavy expense by The New York Times for the past 14 years.  And based on his output over the past 14 years, it is absolute certain that his longevity has nothing whatsoever to do with any unique insight into our politics, because Mr. David Brooks sucks at politics.  And his extended stay in the penthouse of the Wingnut Welfare state is also not because he is a gifted predictor or explainer of cultural shifts, because Mr. David Brooks sucks at that too.  In fact, he doesn't even pass muster as a barely-competent cub reporter, even when speaking on the one god damn thing about which he should actually have some passing knowledge -- the internal state and direction of his own political party and his own Conservative Movement.  Even on those topics he has been consistently and wildly wrong since forever.

So, the obvious question:  how has Mr. David Brook -- who sucks so comprehensively at even the most minimal standards any normal person would set for America's Most Ubiquitous Conservative Public Intellectual -- continued to enjoy lavishly compensated and utterly unsupervised employment by The New York Times for the past 14 years?  

And why are there so legions just like him who have opinion-having jobs-for-life even though they clearly suck at what they do?

Because insightfully predicting or decoding or reporting on the state of our nation is not Mr. Brooks' job.  Mr. Brooks' job is to maintain the bubble in which the Beltway lives by telling them the same lies they desperately wish to believe over and over again. He and his hundreds of imitators are paid to spin happy horseshit fairy tales to comfort their patrons and fellow travelers.  To tell the revelers inside the sealed gates  of Prince Prospero's palace that all is well; that the plague raging outside isn't really that bad.

And even if it is, well it certainly wasn't caused by the revelers themselves, but by the Extremes On Both Sides.

And anyway, whatever is going on out there in flyover country, they and theirs are still perfectly safe inside the bubble.  Perfectly safe, as long as they agree never to question whether the plague was actually caused by the Extremes On Both Sides or not.  Perfectly safe, as long as they agree never to question their own role in helping to create and spread the plague.

This is why Mr. David Brooks receives near-universal acclaim from the rest of the American pundit ecosystem.  Because he has achieved what most of the rest of the American punditocracy can only aspire to:  being paid a king's ransom to write the same shitty column over and over and over again, year after year after year.   

This is also how Mr. Brooks accidentally provides one invaluable service to those of us on the Left who are keenly interested in breaking the corrupt monopoly of the Beltway punditocracy.  Because despite the fact that Mr. Brooks has a long history of being dead-wrong about virtually everything, Mr. Brooks is also a dead-on accurate harbinger of where the rest of the Beltway is, and where it is going.

And where are the Beltway revelers going these days?

The same place they always go -- down to the boat-yard to build yet another ark on which they can once again sail away from another disaster they helped to create.

Another ark made of the same relentless Both Siderism has already poisoned the well of honest public discourse.  The same relentless Both Siderism that has made Mr. David Brooks wealth as one of America's leading well-poisoners.

Where did you think your Crazy Uncle Liberty learned to say "yeahwellbothsidesdoit!" every time you debunk another one of his insane, racist conspiracy theories?

How do you think a two-bit hack like Matthew Dowd managed to build an entire second career for himself as ABC New's chief political analysis slinging bullshit like reporting on Donald Trump's record of sexual predation must always be accompanied by reporting on Hillary Clinton's emails because Both Sides.  Mr. Dowd's original tweet was deleted because Mr. Dowd is a weenie --
-- but he did leave his pissy little rejoinder intact for all of history to see.
How do you think our public discourse became so debased that yet another two-bit hack like Chuck Todd could build yet another lucrative career on yet another major American teevee network slinging shit like this on the air week after week after week?

It is because powerful public media corporations long ago chose to hire genteel monsters like Mr. David Brooks to sit at the apex of the American punditocracy and repeat the same, toxic lie over and over and over and over again until that lie became the indestructible context in which every other toxic Conservative lie could flourish.

Which brings us to Mr. Brooks' column in today's New York Times.

And what is the subject of that column?  It literally doesn't matter, because as I have also pointed out once or twice, irrespective of the putative topic of any given column, the purpose of every column is always the same.  To maintain bubble in which the Beltway lives and build the lifeboat on which they will escape retribution for their corrupt complicity by exhorting everyone to blame everything on the Extremes on Both Sides.

So, as demonstration for the rest of the class, let's strip the transient bunting and doodads off of Mr. Brooks column and get a clear look at what's really going on under the hood:
The Economy Isn’t Broken
Translation:  Don't Touch My Stuff

Mr.  Brooks continues:
This account of reality, which I’ve certainly repeated, explains why the Democratic Party has moved from the Bill Clinton neoliberal center to the Bernie Sanders left. It explains why the Republicans have moved from the pro-market Mitt Romney right to the populist Donald Trump right...

On both left and right, movements have arisen...

(Bernie) or ... (Trump).

The news was especially good for the poor. The share of overall income that went to the poorest fifth increased by 3 percent, while the share that went to the affluent groups did not change. In that year, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1999.

Today politics is polarizing to the populist left and the populist right. But if productivity is the problem, what we actually need is a resurgence of the moderates.

The moderate-left policies of Barack Obama must have had something to do with the middle-income gains of the last two years. Moderate Democrats can plausibly argue...

Moderate Republicans can argue...

Right now moderates are in retreat. The populist extremes are on the march. But the fact is they are basing their economic and political agendas on a story that is fundamentally untrue.
Mr. David Brooks is a monster The New York Times hired to sit at the very pinnacle of the American opinion-making machine and repeat the most corrosive and dangerous Big Lie of all again and again, year after year after year.

And by that measure, he is the very best at what he does.

UPDATE:  Finally, what about the subject matter that Mr. Brooks used today to flesh out yet another shitty Both Sides Do It column?  

This from Center for Economic and Policy Research should surprise no one:

David Brooks Gets Story on Wage Growth and Productivity Completely Wrong

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

"Malleable To The Point of Innocence" is NYT-Speak for "Reprogrammable Meatheads"*


After reading Thomas Edsall's column today, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage reportedly got knee-walking drunk, downed a whole bottle of prescription Oxford commas and then threw itself off of a precipitously high dangling participle.

Because like pretty much every other Nerf Ball column about partisanship and politics the Beltway generates these days, Mr. Edsall's contribution to the genre is an exercise in attempting to write about why the GOP is a reeking shitpile of bigots and imbeciles without actually, y'know, talking about why the GOP is a reeking shitpile of bigots and imbeciles.

Right off the bat he tries to clear the very first hurdle from the wrong foot.
In the Trump era, Republicans have been revising their views on right and wrong.
No, Mr. Edsall, this is not some exotic new plague that arrived on our shores with the advent of Stupid Administration.

In fact, for decades the Republican party has depended entirely on it's reprogrammable, bigoted, brain-dead base to win elections -- a base that has eagerly and radically revised their views on right and wrong over and over again depending on whether or not their party occupies the White House. And they have gotten away with it so often thanks to the invaluable assistance of the Conservative media and the Beltway media that by now they have been conditioned to believe that it is their inalienable right to just doublethink all contradictions out of existence -- to wish, wish, wish away their own, inconvenient past as though it had simply never happened.

And it is this corrupt bargain between the media and the Republican Party to never, ever hold the bigoted, brain-dead Republican voters responsible for the disastrous policies and cartoonishly incompetent demagogues and con men they vote for that resulted in the election of President Stupid.

But please, do go on.
...“In a head-spinning reversal,” Robert P. Jones, the C.E.O. of P.R.R.I., wrote in the July 2017 issue of The Atlantic,
white evangelicals went from being the least likely to the most likely group to agree that a candidate’s personal immorality has no bearing on his performance in public office.
What happened in the interim? The answer is obvious: the advent of Donald Trump.
No, no and no again.  The depravity of the Republican base, especially its white conservative evangelicals, is a long-standing pre-existing condition that has manifested itself in many, horrifying ways, the latest and ugliest of which the Trump/Pence administration.

Jesus Syllogism Christ, am I the only who watched the West Wing does the fucking homework?

But please, by all means proceed, Mr. Edsall.
There is more to this phenomenon than evangelical hypocrisy. Many Republican voters, including self-identified strong conservatives, are ready and willing to shift to the left if they’re told that that’s the direction Trump is moving.

Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope, political scientists at Brigham Young University, reported in their recent paper “Does Party Trump Ideology? Disentangling Party and Ideology in America,” that many Republican voters are:
malleable to the point of innocence, and self-reported expressions of ideological fealty are quickly abandoned for policies that — once endorsed by a well-known party leader — run contrary to that expressed ideology.
Those most willing to adjust their positions on ten issues ranging from abortion to guns to taxes are firm Republicans, Trump loyalists, self-identified conservatives and low information Republicans.
This is straight-up, cask-strength, Orwell stuff.  The nightmare scenario about which the dirty hippies have been warning for 30 years (and for which we have been slandered, mocked and roundly ignored by the Very Serious men and women of the mainstream media.)

I have nothing to dispute here.  I just wanted to give you a moment to pause before plunging again to our next stop:  watching as the authors of the cited study -- Messers Barber and Pope -- avoid having their academic funding pulled for being too partisan by abusing the word "may" way past the point of decency (emphasis added.)
Many partisans are, in effect, more aligned with the leader of their party than with the principles of the party. (Although Barber and Pope confined their study to Republicans, they note that Democrats may “react in similar ways given the right set of circumstances.”)
Most of the rest of the column is (as I mentioned at the start) an extended exercise in attempting to write about why the GOP is a reeking shitpile without actually talking about why the GOP is a reeking shitpile.  Most glaringly, there is no whisper to be found anywhere about how the modern Republican Party spent decades methodically reorganizing itself on a foundation of racism.

There is no mention of the Southern Strategy.  No talk of the GOP's 40 year project to create a safe space for bigots and imbeciles.  No discussion of the Fox News.  No mention of the decisive and fatal role played by the rise Hate Radio and of Newt Gingrich's GOPAC a quarter of a century ago.  And above all, no judgement exercised about things like facts or the truth or falsity of the positions of the two parties.  For example. the word "science" does not appear anywhere in this report.  Nor does the word "climate".  Health care?  Nope.  Obama?  Nope.  

Birth certificate?  Benghazi?  emails?  

Nope, nope and nope.

Apparently this Great Sorting all just...sorta...happened.

Because Trump!

And even though apparently no one know how any of this came to be,  golly, it sure is a damn shame that it did.
Third, and most significant, if the Barber-Pope, Broockman-Daniels and Achen-Bartels conclusions are right, American politics is less a competition of ideas and more a struggle between two teams.

In other words, insofar as elections have become primal struggles, and political competition has devolved into an atavistic spectacle, the prospect for a return to a politics of compromise and consensus approaches zero, no matter what temporary accommodations professional politicians make.
Oh no, Mr. Edsall, American politics is definitely a competition of ideas.

They're just ideas that you would rather not talk about in the good, gray pages of The New York Times.  

 * (Title of this post shamelessly stolen from @WattleOfBits from the Twitter machine.)

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Today In Both Sides Do It: The Pseudo-Rabbinical Argle Bargle Of Mr. David Brooks

Here is what The New York Times paid Mr. David Brooks a large pile of money to write today:
Atlantis: A Land of Contrasts.





Both Sides!

Why won't Obama lead?

What?  You think I'm kidding?

From Mr. David Brooks in The New York Times today
Harvey, Irma, Jose … and Noah.
And we're off...
Is there anything we can learn from hurricanes, storms and floods?

People have been asking that question for thousands of years, and telling stories that try to make sense of natural disasters. These flood myths are remarkably similar to one another...

The most famous story, of course, is the biblical story of Noah. As the story begins, the human race is living without law, and as a result is living violently and badly. But there was one righteous man, Noah...

 God tells Noah to build an ark...

What does Noah say when he hears this?

Rabbis and scholars have often judged Noah harshly for this...

“Noah was righteous but not a leader,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observes...

Noah and his family get on the ark and Noah gently cares for the animals...

What does Noah do now? Once again, Noah is silent...

Once again, the rabbis are critical of Noah’s passivity...

Now God gives Noah a covenant...

Noah is a good man, but his story is a lesson in the dangers of blind obedience...
And here is the key paragraph: the razor in the apple of virtually every single thing The New York Times pays Mr. David Brooks to write:
..That’s because we have trouble thinking about authority. Everybody seems to have an outsider mentality. Social distrust is at record highs. Many seem to swerve between cheap, antiestablishment cynicism, on the one hand, and a lemming-like partisan obedience on the other.

Floods are invitations to recreate the world. That only happens successfully when strong individuals are willing to yoke themselves to collective institutions...
In other words, floods, boy, I don't know.

The one salvageable metaphor from this puddle of awful is the image the ark.

Because once again that is exactly what David Brooks and the rest of the Beltway media drivel-mongers are building for themselves and their friends, right out in the open where everyone can see. Another great big Both Siderist lifeboat -- just like the one they built after President Cheney lied us into the wrong war, just like the one they built after the Bush Administration collapsed, just like the one they built after the GOP chose to deal with the election of the first black president with a relentless, unified campaign of slander and sedition -- on which they plan to once again sail away unscathed from yet another catastrophe for which they bear a huge amount of responsibility.

This is what we're up against:

And without massive and concerted push-back, they will absolutely get away with it once again.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Why Journalism Is Dying

Because it is a profession which is theoretically dedicated to holding power accountable, but which absolutely refuses to police its grotesque excesses and hold its own wormy con men accountable.

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Like a Virgin Redux

I wrote this back in 2009 on the occasion of the eight anniversary of 9/11.

It is now eight years after that, and it gives me nothing but nightmares that all the things I was writing about back then -- the berserk, blood-drunk madness of the GOP,  the utter cravenness of the Beltway media, the willful amnesia everywhere, the dreadful momentum all of it was acquiring -- have all gone from very bad to unspeakably awful.

Like A Virgin

“...they turned to prayer, beseeching
that the sin which had been committed
might be wholly blotted out.”
-- 2 Maccabees. 12:42

Once upon a time, there was a President named Bill Clinton, who was, by most historical standards, a typical Centrist Republican, although by a fluke of geography and circumstances he ran for public office with a "(D)" after his name.

Under his Administration, many Conservative ideas which had long gathered dust on the shelf -- ideas such as welfare reform, a balanced budget, debt reduction, a strict “Pay as You Go” fiscal regime, jobs-jobs-jobs, budget surpluses, NAFTA, GATT, official bans on gay marriage, etc. -- were finally realized.

And for all of his good work on behalf of their ideology, Conservatives spent eight, long years treating Bill Clinton -- a Southern, White, Christian man -- as if he were a case of flesh eating nuclear syphilis.

Because he did not run for office with an "(R)" after his name.

And because he did not run for office with an "(R)" after his name, according to the leading voices in the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement, Bill Clinton was, in no particular order, Hitler, a Socialist, a rapist, a warmonger, a serial murderer, and a drug dealer, whose Presidency was somehow vaguely illegitimate.

And counterpointing the 24/7 slime campaign, there were those endless, endless hearings. Whitewater. Travel office. Christmas Card lists. Lincoln bedroom. Etc ad nauseum.

Or don’t you remember?

He was “Not my President!” (Ollie North: War criminal, terrorist arms dealer, GOP Senate Candidate [1994] and FoxNews Contributor.)

He was warned “not to set foot in my state.” (Jesse Helms: Professional Bigot, Confederate Senator, 1820-2003)

His picture was used for target practice by G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate felon, would-be assassin, radio personality and Republican hero.

From "The American Prospect":

...it's worth remembering just how virulent the opposition to Clinton's presidency was. Republicans began plotting to impeach Clinton long before anyone had ever heard the name "Lewinsky," and many on the right simply refused to accept that he legitimately occupied the office he held. Then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, when talking to Democrats, used to refer to Clinton as "your president."

It was a warped, hysterical campaign funded by wealthy Right Wing thugs like Richard Mellon Scaife

and propagated by wealthy Right Wing thugs like Rupert Murdoch who made sure the lies were jack-hammered into the headlines day after day, year after year.

And judging by its objectives, it was also a very successful campaign: it legitimized and metastasized Hate Radio; killed the credibility of the "objective" media once and for all; made the overt mass-slander of political opposition by the Right acceptable; moved radicals, militia nuts, bigots, Creationists and Limbaugh zombies to the center of the Republican Party; accelerated the exodus of reasonable moderates the hell out of the Republican Party; destroyed the possibility of public discourse; and kicked the door open to the use of Congressional hearings as instruments of political vendetta.

But as successful as it was, it was also an incredibly high-risk strategy, because of a thing called the "public record".

The public record meant that each and every time a Republican stood up to, say, slam the Democrat Commander-in-Chief during a time of war (from The Poor Man Institute:)

“You can support the troops but not the president”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

“President…is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation’s armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy.”
-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

“American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy.”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

“If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy.”
-Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W. Bush

“I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning…I didn’t think we had done enough in the diplomatic area.”
-Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

“Well, I just think it’s a bad idea. What’s going to happen is they’re going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years”
-Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

“I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

“Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?”
-Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”
-Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)

“This is President Clinton’s war, and when he falls flat on his face, that’s his problem.”
-Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN)

“Bombing a sovereign nation for ill-defined reasons with vague objectives undermines the American stature in the world. The international respect and trust for America has diminished every time we casually let the bombs fly.”
-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

they left a documentary trail wide and bright enough to be visible from space.

Or from the next election cycle.

The public record meant that every frivolous Republican witch hunt and every syllable of hate and demagoguery gleefully poured out through public megaphones and megachurch pulpits to malign and demonize the Left could potentially represent a thick bar on the cage of any future Republican president's imperial ambitions.

Because, after all, should the tables ever turn -- should there ever be a Republican President whose election really was suspect, or who really did lie to the American public and flagrantly abuse his office, and did it in ways that cost the nation trillions of dollars and thousands of lives -- after spending eight years establishing a public record in such clear and unambiguous language what the Hell could the Right possibly say?

After conspiring to bring about two of the most destructive events in modern American history -- the impeachment of a US President over trivia, and the probable theft of the subsequent Presidential election -- to what God could Republicans possibly pray that their eight years of insanity, venom and violence "might be wholly blotted out?”

On 09/11/01, their dark miracle came winging its way out of a clear, blue sky.

Eight years ago, this is what we all saw.

All of us, all together across all political, cultural and religious spectra watched the worst thing many of us had ever seen.


But in what now seems like less time than it took to wipe away our tears, the same depraved thugs who sponsored eight years of "Clinton Murdered Vince Foster!" hysteria began hijacking of our pain and patriotism to serve their partisan interests right before our eyes.

The minute the Bush Administration began trying to stretch the war they got into an excuse for the war they wanted, 9/11 stopped being merely a national tragedy and started being the Bush Administration's bottomless political ATM machine.

The minute the Party of Personal Responsibility began using the mantra "9/11 changed everything" as the political equivalent of the Blood of Christ -- as a means to absolve themselves of their personal responsibility for eight years of malice and derangement -- for them September 11, 2001 stopped being a moment of shared, national anguish and started being a suit of cultural body-armor which magically deflected any criticism of their lies and their hypocrisy.

An impervious sniper's nest from which they could cynically escalate --
"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.
-- their war on the Left.

Or don't you remember the day the Right robbed the graves of all those who perished on 9/11 to turn this

into their all-purpose

"Get Out of the 90s Free" card?

And the thing is, it worked.

By selling 9/11 for a mess of wingnut pottage, the Right bought itself an anti-Liberal free-fire zone and two Presidential terms-worth of blank checks. Two terms of an alternately supportive and supine media. Two terms of catastrophe, corruption and treason protected from scrutiny by an ablative shield made out of solid "Why do you hate America?", and a promise that they could go on bareback fucking diseased monsters in the alley all night long, every night, forever and wake up each morning miraculously clean, virginal and still beloved in the eyes of God.

But they forgot that tempus just keeps fugiting along. And as time passed, the Right got so accustomed to butt-scooting their depravity all over the public square and never being called on it they simply stopped noticing that they were amassing a whole new post-9/11 public record so despicable and overflowing with Conservative atrocities that it positively dwarfed their antics during the Clinton Years.

And that brutal, meth-addict level of dependence on never being brought to book for anything they say or do left the Right completely unprepared for the one thing their leaders promised would never happen again.


And losing has driven them a special kind of crazy; that screaming-incoherently-and-lashing-out-in-every-direction kind of cold-turkey junkie withdrawal crazy.

In the few, short months since they lost, they have emptied out their entire store of raving invective and delusion.

Losing has left them insisting that that the legally elected President of the United States somehow isn't really the President. That he is a secret enemy. A Communist. A Hitler. A Muslim sleeper cell. A Chicago gangster.

Has left them swearing that "their country" has been stolen and that somewhere hidden in secret code in a 1,000 page health care bill is a plan to murder senior citizens.

To understand how deep and relentless their addiction goes, you need only consider the recent example of Mrs. Katy Abram, who leaped into microcelebrity and the wingnut pantheon a month ago with her Clown Hall rant of “I don’t want my county to become Russia!” speech.

Mrs. Katy Abram wants the world to believe that, like some pure, down-home, liberty-lovin' Sleeping Beauty, she somehow slept through 9/11.

Slept through two wars and the two trillion dollar bill they racked up.

Slept through tax cuts for the wealthy that added another few trillion to our debt.

Slept through Katrina.

Slept through Terri Schiavo.

Slept through the screams of the Constitution as the Bush Administration fed it an inch at a time through the wood chipper (the same Constitution she is now so deeply concerned about that she has somehow become, virtually overnight, an “original intent” quote-spewing expert) only to be awakened in a sudden, patriotic fury by the sound of a Black Democrat taking the oath of office.

I’m sure in Mrs. Abram’s mind – and in the tiny little minds of tens of millions of Americans just like her – she sees absolutely no contradiction between explaining that she never paid any attention to a single fucking thing prior to January of 2009....and saying that she started paying attention in 1991 "when we first went to the Gulf War" and that she has debated politics with friends at the opposite end of the political spectrum “a million times over”.

It is, in fact, a sign of the depth and effectiveness of their brainwashing that people like Mrs. Abram see no conflict between saying in one breath “I have never been interested in politics” and "I always seem to have faith in the government“ in the next.

Because during the Bush years, people like Mrs. Abram never saw their love of their Dear Leader and their fealty to his Administration as something "political". They saw it normal. As the Universe being at its proper, wingnut default setting: White, male, fundamentalist Christian, Conservative, flight-suit clad and killing scary brown people. And as long as that remained true, all was right with the world and people like Mrs. Abram were absolved by their "Don't Worry, Go Shopping" leaders of any responsibility for paying attention to anything their government was actually doing.

And once the Dear Leader's reign ended, as far as people like Mrs. Abram were concerned, the natural order of mindless obedience in exchange for a smug and blissful ignorance collapsed. "Their country" was suddenly broke and fucked up for reasons that they dared not think about too much. "Their country" was suddenly awash in dirty fucking hippies, who for some reason were no longer satisfied with being cultural punching bags. "Their country"suddenly had politicians and activists who said mean things about the Dear Leader and the Republican Party...and got away with it!

And worst of all, "their country" suddenly had a Scary Black Man living in their Dear Leader's pretty White House, probably having dirty, Muslim sex in the Dear Leader's sacred, Christian bed and putting his filthy, Kenyan hands all over "their county's" pure, white Constitution.

So, for example, when you hear the same people who fanatically supported President George W. Bush when he famously told Iraq war critics to fuck off --
"Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election."
"...scrap the current grandiose plans and to start over."
or when you see the mobs on the Right being whipped by talk of secession or revolution or spilling the "blood of tyrants" into a nearly-pornographic frenzy, understand that what you are witnessing are the echoes of political decisions made in the wake of September 11, 2001.

Political decisions that trained the Right to believe, on a visceral level, that a sufficiently bloody and horrifying disruption to the life of the country can -- if properly exploited -- wash away their eight otherwise-unforgivable years of sin and restore "their country" to its proper, wingnut default setting.

That if the right sacrifices are made to the right Gods in just the right way, then they can be virgins again.

Dowd vs. Blow

At this particular moment in history, the grim reality of the Trump Administration (and the mentally-underclocking imbeciles and FitBit Bigots in this country who will stand with President Stupid no matter what) is a national political crisis which is overwhelmingly more important than any other political calamity we currently face.

As we dirty Libtards have been saying for a very, very long time, this is the conversation we need to be having. From Charles Blow in The New York Times ("Soul Survival in Trump’s Hell")
The real change will come when those who felt compelled to stand on principle and not participate in an election in which they felt they were being forced to choose between “the lesser of two evils” realize the staggering magnitude of the gap between those “two evils.”

By the way, the lesser-of-two-evils argument is poppycock. The choice people faced in November was the difference between dim light and absolute darkness. There really was no comparison. The false parity was a media concoction and a Russian propaganda weapon...
And, at this moment in history, there is also a large and loosely organized cohort of well-paid professionals at every level of the Beltway media who, for various financial and psychological reasons, are desperate for us not to have this conversation.  From Matthew Dowsd, ABC New's chief political analyst:

At this particular moment in history there are only two sides in this fight.

On one side there are Trump and his Republican goons, his Fake Christians, his tiki-torch Nazis, his propagandists, his collaborators and his useful idiots.

One the other side there are the Good Guys.  Not pure.  Not angels.  Just the usual mix of American mutts that have always answered the call every time our nation has been threatened --

-- all pointing our pikes and swords and muskets in the same direction and more-or-less not at each other.

Pick a side.

Behold, a Tip Jar!

PS. Oliver Willis FTW: