Morning Ed: Media {2018.04.06.F}

[Me1] Should reporters stop doing “off the record“?

[Me2] Breitbart needed Bannon, it seems. Or it needed to be on the outside so it could rally the people against the powerful, or something.

[Me3] According to the Intercept, some secret rules are making it easier for the FBI to track journalists.

[Me4] I guess I don’t feel the same sense of alarm with this article. Live by the Facebook, die by the Facebook. It doesn’t seem that they were targeted so much as Facebook just evolved in how it does things.

[Me5] Media fixation on death tolls may be costing lives, in the longer run. One thing I did like about Parkland is how little time we’ve spent talking about Cruz. That may save lives.

[Me6] Looking at some of the fallout from the Sinclair script. Jack Shafer is unimpressed with critics’ arguments, and Matt Welch makes some solid counterarguments, with anti-Sinclair counterarguments coming from… the National Review?

[Me7] The media’s tendency to treat routine behavior as nefarious because Trump is doing it and is also legitimately terrible is kind of exhausting.

[Me8] This is so stupid.

[Me9] Remember Jessica Lynch?


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105 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Media {2018.04.06.F}

      • Murdered, or executed? Like, was he saying the law should be changed to make future abortions punishable by death, or was he calling for people right now to go out and hunt down women who have had abortions in the past? I don’t support either, but let’s use our words correctly.

        Here’s what I don’t get: The idea that abortion is murder is fairly mainstream. It’s not the consensus view, and I certainly don’t agree with it, but it’s pretty common. At least 20-30% of the adult population, I’d guess. So is the idea that premeditated murder should be punishable by death. And I think there’s a pretty big overlap between those views. So why is the logical combination of these two views so fringe? Why do so many people believe that a) abortion is (almost always premeditated) murder, b) premeditated murder should be punishable by execution, and c) no woman should ever be executed for having an abortion?

        It’s not because the doctor’s the one who’s actually performing the abortion. The woman a) pays for it, and b) is actively participating in it by bringing the fetus to the doctor’s office with the express intent of having it aborted. If any actual murder fit that fact pattern, it wouldn’t be particularly controversial to treat the patient’s actions as a crime on the same level as murder.

        Again, I don’t accept the premise that abortion is murder. I don’t want any restrictions on abortion at all. I just think it’s weird that so many people who do accept that premise don’t want it to be treated as such by the legal system.


        • The reason Williamson’s views are fringe are because very few people actually take such a binary reductive view of abortion.

          Support for abortion in the first trimester is very high, and slowly dwindles to very low for abortion in the third trimester. Obviously the general public takes a different view of “life begins at conception”.

          Even among self-described pro-life people, “abortion is murder” conceals a deep ambiguity and nuance.
          People, generally, grasp the moral shades and complexity involved even when they come to different conclusions.

          So the idea that destroying a fertilized ovum warrants the death penalty is a freakish outlier, a view of things that reflects, not a deeply thoughtful person, but someone who has thought less about the issue than the random person on the street.


          • I think this is part of it, and while I’m not sure that’s the case with Williamson [1], I’d note that the last person to really run into hot water in a prominent way over advocating criminal penalties for women getting abortions was a man famous for being a deep thinker, with well-known, long-standing commitments to the pro-life cause: Donald J. Trump.

            And he took the fire over it from the Right, much more than the Left, because this was still during the primary.

            [1] Who ran into a lot of the problem he ran into because he’s a jackass who likes getting a rise out of people, not an idiot,


          • @pillsy It’s also the case that a very large percentage of the pro-life movement is Catholic, and *genuinely* pro-life, and abhors (not just is “squishy on” like Williamson) the death penalty. Not all Catholics are anti-death-penalty but most are, and almost all would at least sign on to it being reserved for the most inhuman serial killers, not for every murderer.


            • There’s that, and the pro-life people who’ve I encountered who were genuinely horrified by what Williamson said are from just that wing of the movement.

              Still, it goes beyond that, because it’s common for anti-abortion people to disclaim the idea of any criminal punishment at all for women who get abortions, forget treating it like capital murder.


        • There are a lot of reasons.

          But one that I think doesn’t get enough attention is that, as much as I think that it’s blinkered and misguided, the anti-abortion movement tends to be really pragmatic. The problem they are trying to solve is actually stopping women from getting abortions [1], and most of them don’t believe criminal punishment for those women will accomplish that. And even some who might in principle support it in a hypothetical know saying it is really bad politics… which interferes with the actual goal of (as they see it) saving millions of babies.

          [1] One of the ways I think it’s blinkered is that they really think it’s important that women who are pregnant be prevented from having abortions, and women just not getting pregnant in the first place doesn’t usually count.


        • There’s also the challenge brought by some pro-choice persons who insist that pro-life people really don’t really believe in what they claim to believe and that this supposed lack of belief is a mark against the pro-life people.

          Now, usually when this challenge comes up, it’s to point out hypocrisy on things like the death penalty, or welfare provisions, or support for military interventions. Sometimes it’s about allocation of resources (if the pro-lifer’s really believed what they claim, they’d devote more time to saving the unborn from spontaneous abortions, for example.) But sometimes, I think the challenge could be interpreted as, “if you really believed abortion were murder, you’d support punishing those who choose abortion as murderers.”

          All of that suggests to me this one point: maybe claiming pro-lifer’s don’t really believe what they say they believe misses the point and goads the discussion into further escalation. Perhaps not inevitably, but that claim tends to do so.

          I argue that’s the meta-context that Williamson made his statements about executions/hangings. And it’s in that context that a good chunk of people who otherwise might disagree with executing people who get abortions double down in support for those statements. Of course, a good number probably actually just agree with him. (And I realize I’m making the “they don’t really believe that” argument here, too.)

          None of this means I support Williamson’s statements. I find that policy abhorrent, especially because (as it seems) he has doubled down on that view and wasn’t offering it ironically or as a reductio. (To be clear, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by him, and I haven’t really investigated this controversy very much.) And while I consider life to begin at conception, I also consider myself pro-choice, so that abortion on demand for the first two trimesters should be not only legal, but subisidized if the woman can’t afford it.


    • Now the Atlantic just has David Frum, Reihan Salaam and Conor Friedersdorf as conservatives or libertarians. At least that who i recall off the top of my head, i think they have other conservatives who write for them.

      While certainly a liberal place they more, and higher quality, conservative/diverse voices then almost any other site/publication.


      • I liked John Cole’s take on it where he asked, show me the progressive voices at The Weekly Standard, National Review, or Fox news.

        Apparently its a bubble only when you lack conservative voices.


        • Yeah very true. There are odd double standards. I know some people say they expect more of liberals or liberal publications or places that aspire to be the top of the heap. I agree with that in general. Though that doesn’t change the calculation that the liberal places are better in this area and maybe the critics should spend more time trying to make the conservative places better.


          • The thing is that historically the Atlantic doesn’t aspire to be liberal, it aspires (for about 150 years now) to be slightly more progressive than the middle of the road on average, but to spread a broad range around that mean. Their mission statement from the 1850s goes:
            ” “In politics, The Atlantic Monthly will be the organ of no party or clique, but will honestly endeavor to be the exponent of what its conductors believe to be the American idea. It will deal frankly with persons and with parties, endeavoring always to keep in view that moral element which transcends all persons and parties, and which alone makes the basis of a true and lasting prosperity. It will not rank itself with any sect of anties: but with that body of men which is in favor of Freedom, National Progress, and Honor, whether public or private.”

            Williamson absolutely 100 percent does not fit that mission statement and if they actually want that he should never have been hired. (I think we all know what I think about him from my rants on the other thread, yes?)

            But it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for them to be trying to be “that liberal place that occasionally hires conservatives but really we’re a liberal organ” under that mission statement, either….

            They f’d the means up royally, to be sure. But I can see why they had the ends they did in mind.

            Giving them far more benefit of the doubt than I was willing to before, but not really.


          • I’ve seen few complaints from the right that apply to Williamson that don’t apply to National Review firing Derbeyshire. The fundamental complaints seems to boil down to one of:

            1. The Atlantic has different standards for what it views as acceptable discourse from National Review, which, like, duh.
            2. Kevin Williamson’s position on abortion is not actually bizarre and extreme and any pro-life person would be treated that way (which is transparently fatuous).
            3. It’s never actually OK to acknowledge or respond to any sort of pressure from the Left, which is even more transparently fatuous.


        • The slight defense I would make is that those are unapologetically ideological publications/outlets. No one really cares that the Nation, Mother Jones, or TNR lacks conservative voices. The Atlantic holds itself out as an magazine with “no party or clique” as Maribou writes below. However, the GOP went off the deep end and must of their writers have a left-leaning tendency even if it is only technocratic one.

          But I can’t think of what the center-right or conservative version of the Atlantic is.


          • This is correct. This comparison only works if we consider The Atlantic to be a leftward counterpart to TWS. That’s not what The Atlantic wants to be, and so that’s not the standard to hold them to.

            Greg’s argument about the remaining conservatives is a pretty good one, though. They’re still succeeding at not being MoJo or TWS.

            The question as to why the right doesn’t have its own counterpart to The Atlantic is an interesting one. They’d be a lot better off if they did. Likewise, the broader left would be worse off if it didn’t.


            • I mulled and mulled on this and the best I can come up with for the center-right-but-also-some-liberals is the Christian Science Monitor.

              Which feels *silly*. Christian Science! one of my least favorite religions!

              But the Monitor is really something special, IMO, and I *think* they lean a little bit right of center generally, due to their religious collections, though they work hard (and IME with real probity) at not being a “right-wing” paper in any sense of the word. Probably not averaging as right-of-center as the Atlantic does left, though, by a long shot. Still the claims are similar.


              (Funnily enough the other two candidates that crossed my mind for this before being discarded were Commentary (no liberals really) and the Tablet (not really leaning to one or the other side at all when I thought about it harder, plus it’s not as weighty as the others). All 3 of the things that sprang to mind were religiously-founded. Also, didn’t First Things used to be more conservative-centrist, like, 15 or 20 years ago? The First Things I remember from my college days was not the First Things we get now…)


              • The main example I didn’t mention is Readers Digest, which had a vaguely rightward tilt for the longest time. Michael Barone’s political commentary was most of the politics in it. It was friendly towards religion, and had inspiring stories of the sort that were more likely to appeal to the right than the left. None of this would be disclaimed by the left (except maybe Barone), but that’s part of what made it so subtle.

                All of this could still be the case. I haven’t read it in forever. Even if so, it’s not as influential as it was.

                US News & World Report also seemed to try veering right for a little while, though I think that was one editor and it reversed course on the next. In addition to the problems on the right, there is a self-reinforcing mechanism to this that I think would have made it hard for them, or anyone, to deviate from the pack for too long.


              • Tablet is a such a small niche of a publication that it is hard to determine their politics. They are undoubtably a Jewish publication and I think the only thing that really makes them seem right-leaning is that they are 100 percent pro-Zionist/Israel. Besides that fact, Tablet is inchoate and all over the map and possibly purposefully so to show diversity in the Jewish world. So they can have a hawkish right-wing article on Israel, a thoughtful piece by MaNishtana on the difficulties of being Black and Jewish, a Seth Roganesque piece that equals “Jews are funny people”, and also congratulate an older Jewish celebrity on finally coming out of the closet like they did with Joel Gray.

                I’ve only read CSM articles here and there but they never struck me as that right-wing. If anything, their articles seem to be center-left when it came to economic issues.


                • Yeah, I tend to think of Tablet as right-leaning because the stuff they publish that sticks out most in my mind is from a couple right-leaning authors (one who’s terrible, and the other who’s quite good).


                • I was thinking more culturally than economically for CSM. Though it is probably also relevant that “center-left” in the US is “center-right” in much of the rest of the world including the part of it where I started reading articles about economic issues. I have trouble remembering that US “center-left” is actually considered to be that, in the first place.

                  Tablet sticks out more than it probably should by circulation in my mind because a) many many people I know of all faiths and none share stuff from it so it comes across my radar a lot, and b) it’s really interesting and ideologically diverse, as you say.


            • That’s fair, and my admittedly biased reason why there isn’t a conservative leaning general interest outlet is that conservatism itself is in a crisis of definition.

              What is it? All of us here are avid political followers, yet who here can summarize what contemporary conservatism is?

              No, I’m not looking for old Locke or Burke stuff, but something grounded in actual ideas promoted by real living people.

              Is conservatism represented by Trump? Williamson? Kristol? Jim Hoft?
              What are its ideas, what would its ideal society look like?

              Can anyone argue that any of the three legs of its famous stool are still intact, or believed by anyone, anywhere?

              Yes, I am biased, but I would dearly love to hear someone give a short summary of what conservatism circa 2018 actually is.


              • I’ve been reading a lot of national review recently (because until very recently it was one of the few things which didn’t have a paywall). And it seems to me that

                a) there is quite a lot of ideological disagreement in National Review

                b) the ideological median of national review is an always has been Jonah Goldberg. Therefore, it seems to me that a rough explication of conservatism is whatever Jonah Goldberg believes. Something is the conservative position on an issue X if and only if Jonah Goldberg believes it to be the case.


                  • Goldberg is actually a good writer. The problem is that he has used his powers for evil in the past (i.e. that horrible mess that was Liberal Fascism). In his current incarnation as a never Trumper he is actually an enjoyable read. It could also be that he has really mellowed out over the past decade.


                    • There is the idea floating around that conservative intellectuals, the shepherds of the movement, have lost the flock.
                      Henry over at Crooked Timber advances this idea.

                      I think it is deeper than that.

                      I don’t think “conservatism” as a political movement represents any coherent set of ideas any more. Instead it is a set of emotions and tribal totems centered around white ethnic grievance.


                      • Conservatism is as much a set of emotions and tribal totems centred around white ethnic grievance as liberalism is a set of emotions and tribal totems centered around black ethnic grievance. i.e. not really, even if self identified conservatives/liberals do seem to be involved in issues pertaining to ethnic grievance of one sort or another. I’m not saying that BLM is just as legitimate as white supremacy. I’m saying that as a sociological description, this is useless. It also involves a kind of category error. White ethnic grievance refers more to part of the thing that defines partisan affiliation in a given time and place, not the content of an ideology.

                        The reason for this is that ideologies are not simply what self professed ideologues happen to believe. That’s because most self-professed ideologues are partisans in ideological clothing. We want what we mean by liberalism or conservatism or any other ism to be relatively fixed. The beliefs of partisans, however are relatively malleable.


                        • We want what we mean by liberalism or conservatism or any other ism to be relatively fixed.

                          This may be, but if that ism cease to command the loyalty, or at least lip-service, of substantial numbers of partisans (whatever those partisans call themselves) the several reasons for paying attention to it wither.


                        • Don’t you think that contemporary liberalism is centered around an idea of how the world should function, and an idealized vision of a society?

                          Do you think that contemporary conservatism is?


                          • Perhaps I am just getting old and jaded, but both seem to focus less on selling me on the bright, shining city they envision, and way more on why the other city is a shithole, while making excuses for the same (or similar) problems within their own.

                            I mean, I’ll happily let conservatives own getting the ball rolling, but at this point everyone is so focused on tearing down the other that I just can’t listen to any of them anymore.


                            • I think you’re responding to something real. There are a bunch of reasons why, but one is that I think many members of both Team Blue and Team Red are convinced in their heart of hearts that Team Red’s days are numbered [1], and either feel like they’re either fighting a desperate rearguard action or that they’re rallying the troops for one final push before total victory.

                              Neither mindset is terribly conducive to promoting a positive vision to the unconvinced.

                              On top of that, over here on Team Blue we are embroiled in a conflict between the center-left and not-so-center-left constituencies of the party, in large part because we don’t have an intra-party consensus over what we should be working towards. Some of that conflict is, itself, likely a product of the belief that a decisive victory over Team Red.

                              [1] I.e., it will lose big in a bunch of elections and be rendered largely irrelevant by a Democratic supermajority that lasts for multiple Presidential terms.


              • What is conservativism? A rotted out log that recently passed the threshold where Trump could take it over.
                I mean the legs are trashed:
                -The institutional socialcons are now unveiled as entirely unprincipled hypocrites while the principled socialcons have turned from trying to dominate the general culture to trying to carve out little niches to shelter in.
                -The libertarians are now unveiled as entirely bereft of actual popular support and most of the people in the GOP who were using the term libertarians were just embarrassed republicans.
                -Oddly the neocons seem to be having a bit of a resurgence but I think that’s just the establishment emerging from their bomb shelters now that the initial blast wave of Trumpism is subsiding and his chosen minions are flunking out. Trump needs to put someone in those positions.


                • -“The institutional socialcons are now unveiled as entirely unprincipled hypocrites while the principled socialcons have turned from trying to dominate the general culture to trying to carve out little niches to shelter in.”

                  I always find this unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons that I can’t fully voice in words yet. What side doesn’t view the opposition as a bunch of hypocrites? I agree with you but they are never going to have self-awareness over this fact and go away or stop seeking power.

                  There is something about the way the American media portrays the American electorate that I find rather disturbing. The American media (especially the pundit class) treats the American voter like a slate that goes completely blank every two to four to six years depending. They also expect that the parties and partisans/ideologues will go along.

                  I just don’t see most people working this way. It is an idealized version of politics where everything is squeaky clean. I’d be rather disturbed by someone who voted for a Democrat wearing a “love is love” t-shirt and then voted for a Republican two years later that said gay marriage was an affront to tradition. Yet the media seems to get a huge kick out of turning the voters into a blank state with every new election.


                  • Thisnis a difference in hypocrisy degree that makes it a difference in kind. I mean, it’s more than upper middle class white liberals strongly advocating for public education while safely ensconced in their good school districts, but go to war with the board if there’s a boundary change up for consideration.

                    Embracing Bush Jr as one of their own was entirely valid, because he was. Even Reagan can be excused, because his ‘Hollywood’ time – as well as his divorce- were decades in the Trump.

                    But embracing Trump is just such another thing. He was still living his playboy lifestyle publicly (and now we know privately) well into the 21st century. And in contrast, Obama, who has had an incredibly boring and bourgeois personal life since he turned 17, was granted absolutely no respect.


                    • You don’t need to convince me about the moral hypocrisy of Evangelicals. I just want to know whose vote is switched by the moral hypocrisy of the Evangelicals. Who took them at face value before this and is now never going to vote Republican again?


            • Where does The Economist fall these days? I haven’t looked at it since they decided to go full-cheerleader on George W. Bush. (War in Iraq? Yay! Drug coverage for seniors? Yay!) After more than a decade, they still send me offers to re-subscribe. About six months ago they started making cold phone calls with an actual person offering me a chance to re-up.


              • I’d call the Economist globalist. Largely free-trade economics, pro-corporation, but vague secularism which corresponds to vague social liberalism. I guess that makes them liberal these days.

                But the media landscape is changing. I am seeing Forbes and Fast Company publish articles that you would previously associate with the Nation in terms of worker rights and millennial economic woes.


            • I think The Week is angling for this, but I’m not sure they will reach escape velocity; losing MBD to National Review was bad for both.

              They aren’t particularly TeamRed and TeamBlue oriented, but left/right are both published.

              {edit: referring to Will’s comment: “The question as to why the right doesn’t have its own counterpart to The Atlantic”}


              • I think The Week has a genuine heteordox feel, which is good. Losing MBD hurt, Walther was an an unsafe and impressive replacement (made all the more impressive by the fact that he wasn’t an obvious pick). When I think of national publications I’d be most willing to sign on to, The Week is up there. Nobody who reads that is too averse to opinions up different alleys than their own.


        • Yes but no one operates on the delusion that NRO or the Weekly Standard are anything but unabashed right wing partisan rags. The Atlantic is generally held as a liberal but fair entity. I don’t want The Atlantic to simply be a a left wing mirror of NRO.


          • The analogy holds, though, in that The Atlantic‘s center-leftish but moderate brand clashes is just as much at odds with Williamson’s bomb-throwing jackassery as an unabashed liberal’s politics with clash with what National Review offers.

            The real problem, of course, is that Jeffrey Goldberg et al. didn’t understand this well enough to not hire Williamson in the first place. So now we have this (tediously dumb) conservative martyrdom narrative to go with the editorial bumbling.


            • Well I will say this: Williamsons’ opening article at the Atlantic was damn good. And considering that his horrific views on abortion were buried in the dung heap that is twitter I can’t muster up much indignation that Goldberg et all overlooked it. I do think they were right to give him the boot after that but I’m not happy about it either since it plays right into the right wing grievance mongers hands (but still had to be done).


              • “were buried in the dung heap that is twitter”

                They weren’t, actually.

                he podcasted about them at length back when he twittered them. on one of the NRO’s podcasts, his former employer, not some little two-people-subscribed personal joint. I think even before this blew up, “kevin williamson abortion” would have been an easy search. People had also pointed this out before Jeff Goldberg’s “one bad tweet” memo.

                They’re also quite consistent with other scary things he has said in longer format that are less glaringly obviously awful but are exactly the sort of things that almost always come packaged with that exact sort of “WAIT WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?” chaser.

                I’d barely heard of him and I don’t tweet except on vacation or when extraordinarily moved, and this was like, the one thing I knew about him before this week.

                It was well-known.

                not saying it was an unpardonable mistake, just that it wasn’t really a mystery.

                That said it’s quite possible (and seems more than likely to me) that this is the sort of thing that women, uterus-sporting or not, as well other people with uteruses, regardless of their political perspective, keep in the back of their mind once informed of it, just that extra little bit more prominently than the average guy does.

                Because it’s just that extra stitch more threatening when the person is talking about *you*.

                (I don’t fault people for that, btw. I see myself fuzz out on egregious random racist statements that seemed pretty damn noteworthy at the time, straight people fuzz out on egregious LGBTQ statements, not-fans-of-sport-X fuzz out on egregious sport-X-related statements… self-pertinence is a real filter for human recall.)


              • I think the Crooked Timber link says it best. NeverTrumpers just don’t have much cache these days. They are obviously powerless in the Republican Party so why should publications with liberal readerships waste space in publishing them.

                Now if the Atlantic wanted someone who would be heterodox but acceptable, they could have gone for former OTer Jason K. He works for CATO and writes for them too. He is somewhat connected to the opinion journalist scene as far as I can tell (though I don’t know on what rung). CATO isn’t exactly a small shop. But he does seem to have less of a profile than Williamson for reasons that are not totally clear to me interms of publication scope. Mags like NRO were never known for high circulations.


                • I’m not going to say that Williamson was the worst choice from NRO, given the presence of preposterous chucklefucks like D’Souza, but he was also far from the best.

                  David French would be better. 2018 Jonah Goldberg would be better [1]. Ramesh Ponuru would be way better.

                  But I think they got suckered by Williamson’s ability to turn a catchy phrase [2].

                  [1] Though 2005 Jonah Goldberg might make that impossible.

                  [2] I think Williamson actually is a decent stylist, perhaps because I actually have no taste.


                • And not just that Williamson and the NRO guys are irrelevant to the Republican Party, but that the Republican Party, what it stands for, what it believes and why, is utterly without an intellectual voice.

                  To this date, there is no one within the Trump/ GOP world who can clearly tell us what Trumpism is, much less make a case for why we should find it appealing.

                  And it isn’t just Trump. At every level, for every elected office the GOP finds itself unable to say what it is they believe in or create a vision of where they want to lead.
                  It’s all just tribal signaling and mood affiliation.


                  • Whenever I try to assess the GOP and the state that it and conservatism is in, I have to contend with how it corresponds to international politics.

                    Combining that with how, temperamentally, the party it seems to have most in common with right now is Labour.


                    • You also have to pick which part of the party you’re going to assess. There’s the Congressional leadership piece of the party, for example, whose policy positions have been demonstrated to be (1) judges with a record of favoring large businesses, (2) tax cuts largely for big businesses and rich individuals, (3) strip health insurance from >10M poor people, and (4) borrow to make up any revenue shortfalls. Considerable deviation from Trump’s typical stump speeches.

                      I enjoy reading these arguments, although they don’t change my mind. There aren’t a whole lot of people who agree with what was my #1 reason for favoring Clinton: the Congressional Republicans terrify me and I viewed her as the candidate who would be most reliable in keeping them in check.

                      As of this moment, it’s a toss-up whether that’s still my #1 concern, or — given my noted regional parochialism — whether the combination of Sessions, Pruitt, and Zinke have taken that spot.


                        • Thanks, that’s a pithy summation of my feelings about Sessions too.

                          Has anybody heard anything from Perry, even just a “drill baby drill” or a travel/decorating/underlings mini-scandal? I haven’t. Does not meet there aren’t things happening under the radar. Perry too is one I might think would be bad within normal parameters.


                          • A proposed couple cents per kWh credit for power plants who use fuel that allows keeping a two-week stockpile on site (ie, coal and nuclear). The FERC went to court to block that one; Trump et al seem to have neglected to stack FERC as part of their pro-coal thing.

                            You heard it here first: Trump fires Pruitt, moves Perry over in an acting role (legal, as Perry’s been approved by the Senate), brings in another retired general for Dept of Energy to strip it down to the nuclear weapons role and nothing else.


                            • Thanks, I do remember the coal/nuke subsidy now that you remind me.

                              What do Perry and Trump have against natural gas fired (usually peaking) plants, I wonder, that they could not have come up with a slightly broader subsidy that covered them too? Hell, in some ways they are more Republican than nukes in that they do produce CO2; I have no idea how natural gas stacks up against coal in terms of ability to game the regulatory system, but given the psychic valence of coal on the right these days (for a small fraction of which I am afraid we do have to blame the ever-eloquent Hillary), I can why it’s far more important to subsidize coal; the nuke side I suspect is a combination of Greenpeace-punching and trying to bail out the utilities.

                              (n.b. I’m not viscerally anti-nuke, far from it, but I don’t see a good path from the present point to something along the lines of France. Anybody doing anything much – India? – about thorium cycles these days? Thorium has some nice antiproliferation advantages versus uranium.)


                              • What do Perry and Trump have against natural gas fired (usually peaking) plants, I wonder, that they could not have come up with a slightly broader subsidy that covered them too?

                                Multi-generation coal mining families falling on hard times is a meme that gas drilling doesn’t have. North Dakota man camps with drug and sex trafficking problems don’t capture the feeling :^)

                                Not just peaking. Texas has used natural gas for base load for a very long time, and the Western Interconnect jumped on the bandwagon 25-30 years ago when Siemens and GE started selling gas-fired base load turbines for combined cycle use. The same turbines do load following well — in Colorado, Xcel buys all the cheap power the wind farms can produce and backs off their gas turbines to keep things balanced.


                          • Looking for an answer to your question, because all I remembered was some culture shock on Perry’s part when he first took the job*, but nothing recently, I came across this which seems to have been published about 4 hours ago.

                            In the overall cabinet, Mattis is wrong just on very narrow parameters that I hold. Sonny Perdue at Ag seems to be operating normally, same with Acosta at labor, though he was the 2nd guy picked for the job. Elaine Chao is practically invisible, which is odd for someone who been working at the elite level in Washington for almost 30 years. (and when every week is Infrastructure Week)

                            *the whole wait, we have nukes, I thought I was going to sell oil thing.


                            • Price and Pruitt were both initially plausible picks who probablly would have been withdrawn in other admins,

                              Especially Price.

                              Going forward with his nomination was incredibly dumb, and of course he ended up blowing up in their faces. It’s like if Obama had gone, “I’m sticking with Daschle. YOLO!”


                              • Pruitt was pretty low on the depth chart, as someone whose highest elective office was state AG, no relevant industry nor bureaucratic gov experience, and had lost several elections at multiple levels.


    • This reminds me of the reaction to that piece Williamson wrote for NR in which he said that dying communities deserve to die (via people moving away, not via people dying). Quoted extensively and linked to here, although the actual article is paywalled.

      A smear you see a lot from the left is that conservative rhetoric about welfare dependency, personal responsibility, and dysfunctional culture is just a racist dog whistle. Obviously they’re only talking about black people, because what possible reason could anyone have for objecting to able-bodied adults living on the dole?

      And then here comes Kevin Williamson, making it very clear that yes, he means white people. And judging from the reaction, in the eyes of the left this is so much worse. And I’m not quite sure what to make of that. Were they just flustered when they realized that they couldn’t play the trusty race card? Or is racism merely a venial sin, and believing that people are responsible for their own economic outcomes a mortal sin?


      • It would be somewhat uncharitable of me but I suspect its the inability to play the race card. Its comforting to suppose that people you disagree with have the beliefs they do because of some bad motive. If they sincerely and with good faith accept moral principles incompatible with your own and they are agents who are in principle just as capable as you of figuring out what their moral duties are, the disagreement puts pressure on your own beliefs. This is especially so when the disagreement is not isolated to just one person, but is relatively widespread.


  1. More appropriate here but a notorious Trump troll turns out to be a 28-year old Middlebury grad with a nice Manhattan apartment:

    Here is the thing about this guy, he has been surrounded by Jews and other minorities for his entire college and adult life. Is he just a seething pile of resentment fantasizing about when he can get his real revenge?


  2. I meant to share the Volokh article on Sinclair. Maybe I’m losing it but I consistently find the writing and thinking there great. Whether or not I agree, it seems consistently measured, thoughtful, and nuanced. Eugene in particular. I remember TVD always linking to him. Curious to see if their move to Reason changes anything; at the very least, no more paywall.


  3. Vox hired a racist homophobe writer for my favorite sports team blog, then fired him.

    Vox directed all team sites at its SB Nation to stop relying upon volunteer contributors and bring everyone under employment where they would receive a nominal payment. Apparently, Vox wants to be able to say that it pays all of its contributors, even though, it sounds like we’re talking tens of dollars a month. Since many of the volunteers didn’t want to become paid employees (or reveal their identity), writers and writing samples were solicited for the newly opened positions.

    The man chosen is a licensed counselor apparently involved in advocating homosexuality returned to the DSM as a mental illness, who tweeted that he had been hired and looked forward to writing until they realize what an awful mistake they made. By the end of the day, locals had informed management of who they hired and he was gone.


      • FWIW, this is the retraction. Most of the background had to be pieced together from comments in various threads. Ironically, the blog has a no politics policy, so the backlash originated with reproductions of the writer’s past tweets without comment, followed by comments from contributors and readers announcing their disassociation with the site. This all went down in less than five hours.


    • I had been vaguely aware there was a weird conspiracy theory called QAnon, but yow.

      And yeah, there’s something kind of pathetic about the fact that they have to make Trump head of this cabal to have a reason to believe he’s not a complete piece of shit.


    • Dammit are people really this stupid?

      I mean, I know Rosanne Barr is a reprehensible dumbass — sadly she has me blocked on Twitter so I cannot occasionally glance at her pure, crystalized dumbassitude. But really, she’s just one human-shaped pile of shit. But is she commonplace? Is this a thing?

      We’re a species that spread across the globe. We’ve explored the bottom of the oceans, stepped upon the moon, sent probes beyond the edge of the solar system. We’re amazing.

      Then there are things like this. Good grief.


      • There are people I know in real life who I consider rather intelligent that believe some very dumb things. Not Qanon level dumb but really up there. More than a few of my friends are really into a variety of self-help programs and books. When I was in therapy I mentioned the name of one to my therapist and he denounced it as a cult.

        Others like reading about the life-style tips of billionaires or something like that without realizing that if you really want to make a lot of money without inheriting it, your going to need an idea and somewhat questionable sense of ethics. I’m not one of those behind every great fortune is a crime types but most successful business people have done things that are at least kind of under-handed many times.

        I’m not even going to get into on what I see on social media and these are people I mainly agree with politically. So yeah, many humans seem capable of believing some really out there things even if they come across as rational and intelligent in real life. So Qanon is depressing but not entirely unpredictable.


  4. It’s a Media linky day, which is nice, because it’s particularly appropriate to share this excellent [1] article by Molly Ringwald about John Hughes and the movies she made with him, and especially Hughes’ “glaring blindspot” with regards to sexual assault and harassment.

    Also she digs up some of Hughes’ writing for National Lampoon and it’s really appalling stuff.

    [1] Though one which merits a CW for sexual abuse/assault/harassment.


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