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Turkeys and Drumsticks 2018

Over at the old Right-Thinking blog, I would take advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkeys of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making snarky tweeting easier.

It was one of my favorite traditions. So I’m more than happy to be able to continue it here at OT.

Turkeys of the Year

We’ll start with the Turkeys of the Year. For reference, the past winners are:

2007: Alberto Gonzalez, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez

2008: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin’s critics, Hillary Clinton, Congress, Joe Biden

2009: Mike Steele, Glen Beck, the State Department, Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan.

2010: Janet Napolitano and TSA, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, MSNBC, Lower Merion Schools, California Voters.

2011: Nancy Pelosi, Republican Presidential Field, Occupy Wall Street, Anthony Weiner, the Eurozone.

2012: The Culture Warriors, Unions, The Poll Unskewers, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, MSNBC

2013: Healthcare.gov, the Platinum Coin, the Shutdown Caucus, the National Park Service, Fiscal Cliff Panic Mongers.

2014: Jonathan Gruber, Lamenting Democrats, Barack Obama, Jim Ardis, Paul Krugman

2015: The Presidential Field, College Students, The Election Media, Rolling Stone, Barack Obama

2016: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Clinton Supporters, the Clown Panic

2017: Donald Trump, the Resistance, Anti-Anti-Trumpers, Congressional Republicans, David Mueller

This year was tough. I knew, all along, that the President would do well. But as the year went on he developed some stiff competition. Ultimately, I can’t give him the prize every year, tempting as that may be. So, without further ado, the winners of the 2018 Turkey of the Year are:

    • Michael Avenatti

Two months ago, Avenatti was flying high, portraying himself as the one man who could fight Trump and win. Since then, it’s all gone to hell. He blundered his most prominent client — Stormy Daniels — into a garbage defamation suit for which she will now have to pay massive legal fees. He went public with a poorly-sourced and ultimately unbelievable gang rape story that was a big reason Brett Kavanaugh survived his confirmation hearings and possibly a reason the election wasn’t as bad for Republicans as it could have been. And literally five minutes before I was going to submit this post for editing, he was arrested for felony domestic violence. Even before all that, his Presidential aspirations were a potential nightmare for the Democrats; the last thing this country needs is another self-aggrandizing ignorant publicity hound in the White House. I have to think he’s close to finished now. Rarely have we seen a more rapid or deserved fall from grace.

    • Jacob Wohl

I’m currently reading Bad Blood, the story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes is who Jacob Wohl mistakenly thinks he is. He’s become internet infamous for bizarre claims of Los Angeles area hipster coffee shops where the clientele secretly love Trump. He’s become famous for bizarre stories about him pretending to be an accomplished hedge fund manager at age 18. And he finally blew up into the public sphere with an accusation of rape against Robert Mueller that was so incompetent and so poorly executed, I’m still not convinced it wasn’t a giant troll.

Turkeys and Drumsticks 2018

Jacob Wohl’s press conference accusing Robert Mueller of rape. Image may not quite be the original.

    • Donald Trump

Do I need to say more? No. No, I don’t think that I do.

    • Delicate Trump Supporters

I’ll be fair. Most Trump supporters aren’t particularly enamored of him. And the Outrage! brigade that responds to any slight against him is small. But, boy they are fun. Smashing their own products, burning their own shoes (sometimes while wearing them), and looking around for a fainting couch anytime someone disses the President.

    • NBC

First, they tried to kill Ronan Farrow’s reporting on sexual abuse. Then they buried a report that would have cast a bad light on Kavanaugh’s third accuser. Not a good year for them, to be honest.

Dishonorable Mention: Rudy Giuliani, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie, Paul Ryan, Jeremy Corbyn, Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico, Michelle Wolf, Boris Johnson, Bill Donahue, The Academy, Twitter, Elon Musk, the various cities competing for Amazon’s second HQ, Jim Acosta, Facebook.

Golden Drumsticks

Here’s a summary of the past recipients of the Golden Drumsticks (links above). Some of these I’ve eventually come to regret. Praising anyone in politics is bound to backfire on you eventually. But I put them out in the interest of honestly owning up to my past blogging.

2007: Arnold Schwarzenegger; Ron Paul; Barack Obama; David Petraeus; Juan Carlos; Burma’s monks

2008: US Military; Jeff Flake; Ron Paul; Republican Governors; Barack Obama

2009: The American Fighting Man; Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd; George W. Bush

2010: The Tea Party; Chris Christie; Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles; the Next Wave of Republicans; David Cameron and Nick Clegg; American Soldiers

2011: Seal Team Six; Mark Kelly; The Arab Spring; the Technicians at Fukushima

2012: Down Ballots; The Sandy Responders; Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods; Mathew Inman

2013: Francis I; Edward Snowden; Rand Paul; The American Military; The Institute for Justice

2014: Ebola Responders; Francis I; Rand Paul; David Brat; The Supreme Court

2015: New Horizons and Dawn; Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler; Amnesty International; Video and Body Cameras; The Non-Crazy Presidential Candidates

2016: Dallas Police Chief David Brown and Dr. Brian H. Williams; Disillusioned Democrats; Kellyanne Conway; Nate Silver

2017: Women Speaking Out; Ronan Farrow; Jake Tapper; the Competent Trump People; Houston

For this year … well, I guess I’m already on the Trumpists’ naughty list, so let’s go with:

    • Robert Mueller

Mueller has been a very quiet force in the center of the tempest. He’s avoided sensation. He’s only indicted those he knows he can get. He’s handed off investigations to other authorities when appropriate. He’s avoided leaks, which is remarkable. And now it’s looking like he will wrap up the investigation within a few months. I stick to my prediction that, like Bill Clinton before him, the scandals surrounding Trump will destroy many people around him but leave him untouched. In the end, I think even Trump critics will come around and admit that Mueller’s done a fair job under extremely difficult circumstances.

    • Justin Amash

By far, the most consistent conservative in Congress, one of the few who will openly oppose Trump and his party. Why do I like him so much? It can be summarized in a tweet.

    • Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

Trump has abdicated his role as leader of the free world. Thankfully, others are stepping in to fill the gap. They’re not perfect, but they’re all we’ve got.

    • The Sane Republicans

Dan Crenshaw decided to bypass the outrage brigade and show a spirit of humor. Martha McSally resisted pressure to indulge conspiracy theories and conceded a hotly contested election with grace. Ben Sasse has been putting forth a solid conservative message. John McCain resisted Trump until the end. There’s been some criticism of Republicans because many of them vote with Trump on various things. This seems misguided. The things they are voting with him on are standard issue Republican policy positions. On many of his fronts — the Wall, for example — his proposals have died in Congress before even getting to a vote. I don’t expect Republicans to suddenly vote liberal. I do wish more of them would stand up against the madness that has engulfed much of the party and take back Congress’s power on war, on trade and on budgeting.

    • The Thai Soccer Team and their Rescuers

I said on Twitter that I thought they would never get all those young men out alive. I have rarely been happier to be wrong.

Honorable Mention: Stormy Daniels, Robert Kelly, Jim Gattis, Ebola responders, Priest abuse whistle blowers, marijuana legalization.

Be sure to put your nominees in the comments. OT has a much broader readership than RT so I’m very curious to see the diversity of answers.


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Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

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38 thoughts on “Turkeys and Drumsticks 2018

  1. I think you are partially right but holding back on your Wohl analysis. I think he is an example of someone who has completely grown up in the right-wing talk radio/Fox News ecosystem. Vox published this essay yesterday on the state of the California GOP and California conservatives.

    https://www.vox.com/2018/11/19/17841946/trump-conservatism-california-gop-shapiro-midterms-2018

    This strain of conservatism takes its spirit from Andrew Breitbart’s saying that “politics is downstream of culture.” Conservative podcast host Michael Knowles — a trained actor and native New Yorker who got his start in politics working on a Republican campaign his sophomore year at Yale, and who wrote a best-selling book called Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide (the pages inside the book are largely blank) — told me that California conservatism was more of an “anti-ideology,” one largely based on kulturkampf, not policy.

    Southern California-style conservatism is a conservatism that fights. On its face, it doesn’t care much for the specific nuances of tax policy, but it does like to trigger the libs. As we spoke in a conference room in DailyWire’s office, Knowles was drinking out of a tumbler emblazoned with the words “LEFTIST TEARS” (available for sale on DailyWire.com). “I think I’m contractually obligated to use this every moment I’m in the office,” he said.

    California’s GOP suffered even more defeats this year. They lost their former stronghold of Orange County. Their gas-tax repeal referendum was easily defeated and did not end up being the boon they hoped. They still can’t win any state-wide races. Democrats have super-majorities in the California legislature.

    Nothing stays the same forever. There are people in California who realize that the GOP is a mess and want to create a “New Way” that is basically Bloombergian view of social liberalism, environmental realism/progressive, and fiscal conservatism including the Governator but these people have no power. Anyone who would have voted for them has been turned off by the GOP and now the California GOP is occupied by the extremist nuts. Scott Weiner and London Breed of San Francisco (yes even liberal San Francisco) are fiscal moderates who think the best solution to the housing crisis is build, build, build and were against Prop C because they thought it would scare away big employers/tech from SF. So if the GOP can’t attract these moderates, what hope does the California GOP have.

    The Vox article is not the first to analyze this issue. Earlier this year there was a story about Nikki Haley giving some gentle mothering to young conservatives. She told them that “owning the libs” might feel good but who does it convince? How does it get people to think we have good ideas and policies? IIRC the response of her young audience was “But we want to own the libs!” There was also a Buzzfeed story about the race to head the California College Republicans. In one corner, there was a New Way type who wanted to resurrect the GOP’s standing among college students by moderating social outrageous trolling. In the other corner, a contender who proudly boasted of getting Milo Y to campus and “owning the libs.” I believe the owning the libs person won.

    This is where Wohl comes form. He doesn’t care about policy or rhetoric or winning elections. All he cares about is “owning the libs.”

    I have nothing but contempt for the GOP right now. I see this problem getting much, much worse before it gets better. People like Wohl and O’Keefe are not punished for their ill-conceived and often criminal stunts. They end up getting on a conservative welfare-wingnut gravy train that rewards them amply and also pays their legal bills.

    The UK Labour Party spent nearly 20 years as a minority party before it learned to moderate and sweep into power in the 1997 elections. It looks like the same might happen now despite how dysfunctional the Tories and Brexit are. But the structure of American politics seemingly presents the GOP from suffering from such a long exile and they will probably never learn.

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  2. I’m still stunned that Ronan Farrow wasn’t 2017’s Person of the Year. Time went with the female heroes of the #metoo movement, presumably because they wanted females on the cover to appeal to women (with the added benefit that some of them are adorable).

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    • I think it *might* be because Time recognizes how damn hard some of these “females” had to work to speak up and speak out, and that can be harder than any amount of journalistic accomplishment.

      I mean, Farrow does. I wouldn’t be surprised (though I would be surprised that it leaked), if they offered it to him first and he said “what? why are you giving it to me?”

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      • I was trying to think of a good analogy. Winston Churchill versus five brave RAF fliers popped into mind. But analogies fail. I mean, Taylor Swift? An incident from four years before the #metoo movement? I think the reason it bothers me so much is that you wouldn’t have chosen those people for the cover unless you were exploiting women. It’s like the difference between the Holocaust Museum having a display about Triumph of the Will and having midnight showings. It’s miles creepier that they put pretty gals on that particular cover.

        And Ronan Farrow has an interesting background, and there was a lot of drama in getting the Weinstein story into print. Hollywood makes movies about reporters all the time. This issue writes itself.

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        • Taylor Swift testified in a trial against a guy who was known to have groped a lot of women, in 2017. The incident was 4 years ago but the speaking out, in the form of testimony, was not. For a sexual assault, 4 years is a relatively short amount of time, on average, between the experience and being able to speak about the experience in public.

          And what she said had a powerful impact on shaping the effects of the hashtag, movement, etc.

          I get your wariness but your analogy is overwrought. Much more flawed than the Churchill one you rightfully discarded.

          That said, I would have rather they picked Tarana Burke, personally. I would have especially liked that because her story is every bit as interesting to me as Ronan Farrow’s, and the work she does day to day – the effort she’s been putting in for twelve years now – every bit as crucial as his. But the day TIME puts a relative unknown who lives a private life up for their (solo) person of the year – let alone a relative unknown who is neither white nor male – is…. not a day I can imagine. This is as close as they’ve ever come to that.

          And the person of the year process is *inherently* exploitative, sometimes more bidrectionally than others.

          I get the sense from Farrow that he has zero interest in exploiting his work in this arena for the sake of fame and fortune. His interesting background also involves a great deal of familial pain.

          Sometimes I wish folks would just let some women have something instead of, say, reaching for Holocaust analogies to explain how offensive it is that they have something, and how creepy it is. It feels very “for your own good”.

          Sorry if that sounds harsh; I know you are well-intentioned. But I get frustrated.

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    • I clicked on the link thinking that Vox was reporting on some new piece of political science research aimed at sussing out people’s motives for voting this way or that way in 2016. But nope, it’s just a Matt Yglesias opinion piece.

      Why is it so hard for some people to admit that HRC ran a crappy campaign and lost what should have been a gimme.?

      ps – what is Matt Yglesias’ beat? What area does he understand and report or comment on better than everyone else?

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  3. Oooh, fun. Let’s see.

    Avenatti… its like he was playing for this; honestly, if ever “role of a lifetime” fit, it fits here.

    Jacob Wohl… I think you are giving him way too much credit… like giving a spot starter the Cy Young for one great outing close to the voting date; or like an Oscar for Oscar bait. Let’s see a body of work, people.

    Mueller feels rushed to me… I expect him to be a strong contender for 2019, though… probably for a golden drumstick, but my contrarian streak still allows for a possible appearance on the Turkey list if Manafort is the biggest bird he bakes… which begs the question how, Paul “Ostrich Jacket” Manafort avoids the Turkey list?

    You gave Francis I not one but two golden drumsticks, 2018 should see him on your Turkey list.

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  4. Turkeys

    – all the states and municipalities that played Bezos’s reindeer games.
    – the voters of the New York 27th and California 50th congressional districts for re-electing crooks.
    – the voters of New Jersey for doing the same for their Senate seat.
    – Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, for not even being able to keep it close.
    – Scott Peterson of the Broward County Sherriff’s office, for being a waste of a uniform
    – Broward County election officials, who took the incompetence of the Broward County Sherriff’s department in even more systemic, though less lethal direction.
    – James Mattis, for providing cover for the naked political maneuvers of the Administration, and not doing anything about the systemic issues. (especially not doing anything to prep for the likely, and likely needed, budget reductions)
    – That NYT op-ed person, for being a grandstanding coward (and likely being part of Pence’s inner circle)
    – Mike Pence, on general principle.
    – MBS, on even more general principles.

    Golden Drumsticks
    – Sharice Davids, for doing everything that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is doing at a higher degree a difficultly with a lot less fanfare.
    – John James, who actually did keep it closer than he had any right too, with minimal fanfare.
    – The US Dollar, which is still the one-eyed person in the kingdom of the blind.
    – USCENTCOM, for managing the quagmire of Syria with minimal US casualties.
    – The State of Alaska, for a good (though pricey) summer vacation

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    • Here is the thing I don’t get about the Amazon chase for jobs.

      Policy wonks on all sides of the aisle hate Amazon type of deals though possibly for different reasons. There are some politicians on both sides of the aisle who also dislike them.

      Most politicians seemingly can’t get enough of them though. They love chasing down corporations for these types of deals. Why Crystal City and NYC were picked is besides the point. Some theories on why politicians love them:

      1. For whatever reason, our politicians are primed to see that their highest responsibility is “job creation” I think there is truth in this but my evidence is only anecdotal. It is what “centerists” politicians run on when they want to avoid hot-button social issues. Indeed, a certain kind of centerist politician always seems to cringe when social issues come up in way that says “Come on folks, can we please stop talking about the a-b-o-r-t-i-o-n and just talk about jobs. Please……” There was an episode of TAL with a moderate Democratic politician from the midwest who seemed to perform impressive gymnastics to talk about anything but jobs. Even Obama mused that universal healthcare would have a bad side effect of getting rid of good jobs in medical billing and insurance; and/or

      2. They are all thinking about their post-political jobs all the time and looking for connections.

      Part of #1 is related to B.S. jobs and was covered in the New Yorker:

      https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/the-bullshit-job-boom

      To account for that persistence, Graeber quotes President Barack Obama on the topic of privatized health care. “Everybody who supports single-payer health care says, ‘Look at all this money we would be saving from insurance and paperwork,’ ” the former President noted. “That represents one million, two million, three million jobs.” Graeber describes this comment as a “smoking gun” of bullshittization. “Here is the most powerful man in the world at the time publicly reflecting on his signature legislative achievement—and he is insisting that a major factor in the form that legislature took is the preservation of bullshit jobs,” he writes. Politicians are so fixated on job creation, he thinks, that no one wonders which jobs are created, and whether they are necessary. Unnecessary employment may be one of the great legacies of recent public-private collaboration

      By most criteria for market efficiency and workplace happiness, that is bad. Yet it leads to a realization that Graeber circles but never articulates, which is that bullshit employment has come to serve in places like the U.S. and Britain as a disguised, half-baked version of the dole—one attuned specially to a large, credentialled middle class. Under a different social model, a young woman unable to find a spot in the workforce might have collected a government check. Now, instead, she can acquire a bullshit job at, say, a health-care company, spend half of every morning compiling useless reports, and use the rest of her desk time to play computer solitaire or shop for camping equipment online. It’s not, perhaps, a life well-lived. But it’s not the terror of penury, either.

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      • #3 it makes them feel important. They are no longer just the mayor of a city; they’re a dignitary with the ability to focus tons of money on a special interest.

        Disagree with both Obama and the New Yorker. Single payer healthcare would be inefficient and employ millions of workers, just as Medicare and Medicaid do. Most people wouldn’t even have to leave their “bullshit” insurance jobs since Medicare-for-All would just be farmed out to the insurance companies, like Medicare is.

        To the extent that the insurance industry has bullshit jobs, it’s partially in things like fraud investigation, which Medicare and Medicaid are very very bad at.

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      • Here is the thing I don’t get about the Amazon chase for jobs.

        What’s not to get?

        This stuff is pretty easy to understand once your’re willing to look behind the goofy headlines. Most municipal governments are loaded up with debt and unfunded future liabilities. They need growth and they need jobs, because that’s what produces revenue. And big-ticket projects bring growth and jobs without having to do the hard work of fixing all the structural constraints holding back more organic forms of growth (i.e small and medium sized businesses).

        As to why municipal government’s overpay for new developments, that’s pretty simple as well. The ROI is negative, but only in the long-run. In many cases the benefits come upfront and the true cost isn’t paid until years into the future. What politician doesn’t like that?

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  5. Green bean casserole award to Petroleum, for still filling everyone up cheaply, though people should really be looking at substituting in something else.

    Turkey Deep Fryer award to the National Debt, which people are overfilling, not paying attention to, and will eventually burn the whole place down.

    Gravy award to Jim Acosta, for being ok and doing the job, but getting all over things a bit too much.

    Canned Cranberry sauce award to Jeff Sessions, for being slightly better than you think, and better than what people will try to put in its place.

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  6. Yeah… good list overall. I still love Michelle Wolf though.

    We really needed her to flame those DC’ers and the fact that they avoided bringing in a comedian who’ll have fun with them is a sure sign in my eyes that she has way more courage than they do.

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