Friday, November 24, 2017

Fundamental and astounding

Presidential nominee, 1860, via The History Place.
David Brooks has finally come up with an idea for that new national narrative he's been talking about, I think, and it's a doozy ("America: The Redeemer Nation"), custom made for Thanksgiving: just as he's suggested in the past that Jews ought to celebrate Shavuot on Passover instead of Passover, so on Thanksgiving he's celebrating Lincoln's Second Inaugural address.

The story of America, then, can be interpreted as a series of redemptions, of injury, suffering and healing fresh starts. Look at the mottos on our Great Seal: “A New Order for the Ages” and “Out of Many, One.” In the 18th century divisions between the colonists were partially healed. In the 19th century divisions between the free and enslaved were partially healed. In the 20th, America partially healed the divisions between democracy and totalitarianism. In the 21st, we have healing fresh starts still to come.
The great sermon of redemption and reconciliation is Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.
That's such a bizarre picture of the Revolution, in the first place, "divisions between the colonists", as if the British government had nothing to do with it. It's true that some 15%-20% of the Americans nominally supported the Crown, though they never came out to fight in anywhere near the numbers the British hoped they would.

Nor is it in any sense true that "After the revolution, we quickly became allies with Britain," as Brooks puts it in an earlier paragraph. "We" were on the point of going back to war with them when war broke out between Britain and France in 1793, and the John Jay treaty in 1794 set up a period of neutrality which began growing into more and more of a cold war after Jefferson's election in 1800 and ultimately hot war in 1812. Britain came close to siding with the Confederacy in 1861, and relations remained bad until 1895 and the beginning of the "Great Rapprochement". It was touch and go for a while whether the US would side with Britain or Germany in the Great War, and the "Special Relationship" we've had throughout the memory of most of us only dates back to 1940.

Even weirder to picture the 19th-century contest as a division between "the free and enslaved", as if the Union and Lincoln himself didn't exist. Without wishing to minimize the resistance of enslaved black people through the 18th and 19th centuries, they were, you know, enslaved, and couldn't do much to end it until the states of the South rebelled after the Republican victory of 1860, and the United States government and armed forces entered the struggle (with the help of many self-liberated African Americans), fighting not against enslaved people but their enslavers. And when Brooks suggests that the divisions of that era were "partly healed" I'm not sure what he's talking about, unless its's the decision on the part of Republicans 11 years after the war ended to throw their radical faction away and to ease up on the defeated whites of the Confederacy, taking out the occupying troops and permitting a little bit of enslavement to be restored, in the form of ignoring the hard-won 14th- and 15th-Amendment rights of the former slaves for the next 90 years.

I can see the point, at least in familiar cliché terms, of talking about a struggle between democracy and two different totalitarianisms engaged alternatively for most of the 20th century, that of the right most of the time during the Second World War in alliance with communistis, and that of the left otherwise in alliance with fascists, but pretty sure I never signed up for a "partial healing" where my side agreed with Hitler or with Stalin or one of their successors not to be so darn democratic all the time, if that's what he's saying, and if it isn't I'd like to know what it is.

Driftglass says

Sexual harassment: the true story of how it happened to me, and how that affects where I come out on Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and others

The author of this book had it wrong. Women, militantly and justifiably raising righteous hell with male harassers, are from Mars. Men are from…well, read the story and see.
Back in my “Madmen” days, somewhere in the 1970s when I was a thirty-something copywriter, I was sexually harassed by my female boss.

It happened at an office party. I can’t remember the occasion. It wasn’t a big party — just members of our creative group  and a handful of people we worked with standing around bowls of potato chips and popcorn, sipping inexpensive wine from plastic cups.

Suddenly my boss, on whom I depended for my job, raises, favorable evaluations, and some minor supervisory authority, walked up to me and stuck her tongue in my ear.

Just before she did it she said, “You’re going to enjoy this.” She kept her tongue in my ear for quite some time, wiggling it around and purring while she breathed.

Now you have to understand that my boss — let’s call her Josephine — was about 25 years older than I was. She would have been described back then the way the writer Nicholas Von Hoffman once described Margo St. James,  founder of a San Francisco sex workers’ rights organization called Coyote. Von Hoffman described St. James as “a good old broad.”

That was Josephine, too. Without knowing absolutely every detail of her life, I was confident that she had done everything — and ingested, inhaled and snorted everything — at least twice. In some cases a whole hell of a lot more than twice.

One of my colleagues at that ad agency, a television commercial producer — let’s call him Richard — told me that once, that when he and Josephine had been shooting a commercial on location in Los Angeles, Josephine revealed that her favorite cocaine dealer was in town. The dealer was an heir to a corporate fortune. His family name appears in the company’s logotype to this day. He had nothing much to do except live in big houses on his inherited wealth, so to pass the time he got involved in various hobbies. One of them was dealing cocaine, the drug a la mode back then. I swear to you, this is all true.

Josephine and Richard drove to Mr. Big Corporate Name’s West Coast digs, where she bought a glass phial of Bolivian Happy Dust for $500. Then they went to a very fancy restaurant, where they decided to get high before going to their table. But how?

They formulated a plan. It went like this. Josephine would take the phial to the ladies’ room, lock herself in a stall, and snort up a line or two while Richard stood guard outside, to warn her by coughing loudly if another women started heading inside. Then they would reverse the process, with Josephine standing outside the men’s room door while Richard took a few snorts.

Josephine went into the ladies’ room. Richard stood guard. Suddenly he heard a loud shriek from inside, followed by Josephine’s voice screaming, “Oh no, oh no, oh no!”

Alarmed, Richard charged into the Ladies Room, where he discovered that Josephine had accidentally dropped the phial on the tile floor of a stall. It had shattered. Cocaine dust was all over the floor. What to do?

“Well hell,” said Josephine, finally putting her emotions back in some secret hiding place, “there’s no point in letting all this stuff go to waste.” She lay down on the stall floor and began sniffing cocaine off the tiles. Richard followed suit. 

Suddenly, Richard told me, while he and Josephine were lying on the floor, their legs protruding from under the stall, the door to the ladies room opened. Richard, from his low vantage point, saw a pair of feet wearing high heeled velvet pumps clack-clack-clack toward the center of the room. Suddenly, the pumps froze in place. There was a pause of perhaps four seconds. Then the pumps turned around 180 degrees and rapidly clack-clack-clacked out of there, while Josephine and Richard resumed snorting.

Anyway, that was Josephine, my boss. Uninvited, she stuck her tongue in my ear and wiggled it around while purring and breathing heavily. A clear case of sexual harassment.

Except that I rather liked it. Nothing ever came of the incident. She was ten years too late. I had dreamed of that kind of stuff when I was a teen-ager and a twenty-something. But now I was married, with a touchy wife (now an ex-wife), a kid, a house, a mortgage, and too much at risk if I dared to play around. So I passed.

But, to repeat, I liked the harassment all the same.

What does this tell us? For one thing, it is an illustration of why the title of a best seller some years ago, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” is wrong, dead wrong, most especially today.

Women, at least women today, militantly and justifiably raising righteous hell with male harassers, are from Mars. And men? We’re from Penis, an place in our bodies that intrudes on and influences what must be a formidable percentage of our decisions. Like it or not, men of a certain generation have grown up in a testosterone-influenced culture. And yes, you may call it the Penis culture.

We are wired to want sex, Worse, our upbringing, however wrongfully, encouraged our wants. Which explains many things about the Madmen epoch, although it excuses nothing. It most certainly does not excuse rape, consistently creepy behavior, pederasty, or constant annoyance of any woman. However, it does account for a sublimation of sex that from time to time expresses itself as a bit of sexually-tinged playfulness, and that should in some instances, when it does not rise to the level of consistent annoyance of an individual, be given a pass. Cases concerning each point?

Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of rape and whose brother reportedly had a career on the side buying off women whom Harvey is said to have sexually abused, does not get a pass. Plus, the reports of lawyers and a brother paying numbers of women to shut up reinforces the probability that Weinstein is a sexual predator.

Donald Trump has admitted the same. From his position of power, he boasted during a so-called “locker room talk” on a bus that he was able to grab women by their private parts and get away with it. What he did does not quite rise to the level of rape. But it does rise to the level of at least a misdemeanor sex crime. Had any other male tried the same, whether in a performers’ dressing room or on the subway, he’d be deservedly sitting behind bars now.

But Al Franken, photographed playfully pretending to grab another performer’s breasts on an airplane, a mischievous look on his face, clearly aware that a camera is pointing at him? That seems hardly at all like predation. It seems much more like a mistake in judgement, the kind of tasteless bad joke that may have been influenced by testosterone culture, but is not even close to the level of a boss who stands nude in his home, in front of an assistant, who depends on the flasher for her salary.

Yes, the woman in the Franken photograph also accuses him of unwanted kissing. But film of her during the same tour shows her engaged in a bit of sexually tinged license of her own. Clearly, this playful license was part of the culture of this particular USO tour. Check out this video from the show, about two minutes past the beginning. In her case, as well as Franken’s, the license is merely playful rather than intrusive or creepy. 

Anthony Weiner, the former U.S. Congressmen, sent to prison for texting pictures of his penis to young girls, clearly has no further business being in public life. The sexting, particularly to minors, is beyond the bounds of playfulness or flirting.

But if Weiner deserved prison, how can Roy Moore, who is accused of committing actual physical acts of pederasty (as opposed to Weiner’s acts of photography) with a 14-year-old girl get away with what he has done? Certainly he does not belong in the United States Senate if the charges against him are true. And the snowballing of similar charges by formerly underaged women keeps adding credibility to those charges. As does defense by one of his friends which seems to indicate that the friend believes that the charges are true, but that the Bible says is okay, the insist.

To be sure, there is a danger in all of this, and that is the danger of witch hunt hysteria, which not only existed in Colonial America, but which swept across Europe from the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Centuries, resulting in hundreds of deaths by torture and fire. All anybody who wanted to get rid of, or get even with somebody else had to do was level an accusation of witchcraft.

The same kind of guilt by accusation is possible in contemporary times. That is why we will need evidence-based legal investigations, and possibly criminal trials, to determine who is a sexual predator, and who is a hapless victim either of an overreaction or a lie. (It may be telling that Franken has called for a Congressional investigation of himself, whereas Roy Moore simply growls denials.) 

But investigations are long and slow. In the case of Senatorial elections there may not be enough time. People will have to vote their commonsense judgment. 

My own common sense is telling me that Franken is guilty of little except some tasteless horsing around. But that Roy Moore may be a pederast more deserving of prison than a U.S. Senate seat.

Cross-posted at The New York Crank

Trump: Just Another Tinkerbell Republican

If there's a literary genre more embarrassing than Trump fan fic, I hope to god I never live to read any of it. It's embarrassing to me as an English speaker, as an American, and as a member of the same species as the people who write that drivel. Seriously: read some Trump fan fic and then watch Independence Day, and tell me you aren't rooting for the aliens.

Yesterday brought us a particularly ripe example in the form of a Washington Times piece called Trump proves his warrior spirit by defending Moore. The piece itself is every bit as embarrassing as the title:
At some point, every warrior eventually runs out of arrows. His armor wears thin yet grows heavier still. He must lay down his weary helmeted head for rest.

Even Coriolanus was forced to retreat — at the behest of his mother.

Not so Donald Trump.

Not a weary drop of blood pumps through the man’s veins. He wears his thick armor light as skin. His bottomless quiver is never empty.
The most striking thing about this, besides the sheer awfulness of the writing, is the Onion-esque mismatch between rhetoric and subject. I mean, this slobbering paean to imaginary epic heroism is about a guy notable for his cowardice, whose epic battle is defending a guy who sexually assaulted a minor.

Except, part of his epic heroism is equivocating about it:
Note how Mr. Trump did not endorse Judge Moore. He simply refused to endorse Democrat Doug Jones.
Yeah, Trump's weasely attempt at plausible deniability is totally Sparta, man.

But that's how Republicans roll. We saw this kind of thing before, with Bush. This is a rule: when a Republican president is at his most hapless and incompetent and indefensible, that's when the wingnut prose about him is most ludicrously adulatory.

The Republican solution is always to clap louder.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Cheap Shots: And Farewell to Mark Halperin

Reconstruction Thanksgiving, Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, 1869. Uncle Sam carving the turkey, self-government and universal suffrage on the menu, and everybody, a Native with a feather in his hair, Germans, French, Spanish, African Americans, Chinese (the Chinese woman looks more Japanese, but the child she's admonishing is wearing a Qing-dynasty queue), even a disreputable but hopeful-faced Irishman at far right, among the guests. Identity politics used to be a thing Republicans approved of! Image via Millard Fillmore's Bathtub.
Happy Thanksgiving! I'm grateful Trump's too busy watching TV to do all the harm he might otherwise be doing, glad to have a voice and wonderful readers, happy to have a big extended family to go have dinner with, and schadenfreudig that the exodus of famous but bad men from social respectability includes Charlie Rose, Leon Wieseltier, and Mark Halperin.

Following Dylan Byers awful tweet (since deleted) about the catastrophic loss of talent in the media industry because all these sexual assault victims keep telling their stories, Jeet Heer:
and me:

More on Halperin from Lemieux, with a link to one of the loveliest parodies of postmodern times, by Alex Pareene, vintage 2013:
A day earlier, President Barack Obama had won reelection (Good, Obama thought), beating gaffe-prone former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (That's a real shame, thought Romney), and now the "Game Change" boys would have to write a book about it. But the campaign had been predictable. Both candidates were already known quantities and each had insisted on keeping the game the way it was. Even the voters had decided to stick with the existing game.
"Well," Heilemann asked Halperin, "what will we call the book?" Halperin was dumbfounded and blindsided. I thought we were going to call it "Game Change 2," he said. You mean we have to come up with another phrase? The fate of the book, and the fates of both men's careers, depended on this decision. The wrong title could sink the whole project. Bookstores might all go out of business. Literacy rates could plummet to zero. The two might literally die. Everything depended on getting the title of the book right, Halperin knew.
Etc. Read the whole thing. I'll try to get some more stuff out later.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


I'm heading off for the holiday. Hope you have a good one -- and if you're inclined, stop by here, because I think there may be a guest post or two while I'm away. See you on Saturday.


Prominent men are being exposed as sexual harassers and assailants, and I see that National Review has asked Ben Shapiro to offer some thoughts about that:
‘My gender is terrible,” Politico Chief Economic Correspondent Ben White wrote earlier this week. Time Politics Editor Ryan League Beckwith tweeted, “Not tweeting tomorrow. Just retweeting women. Men: Join me.”

This is the trendy new habit on Twitter when another prominent man is outed for sexual harassment and sexual assault: Virtue-signaling men rush to the medium to repent on behalf of their sex. Men, they say, are disgusting creatures — but they know that, since they’re men. So leave them alone, ladies. They’re on your side.
Ben Shapiro has some nerve chastising other people for "virtue signaling." Shapiro's career was built on virtue signaling. As a young pundit he tried to beat liberalism to death with his own virginity. His labors landed him a book deal:
I'm 21 years old, a columnist, an author, a graduate of UCLA, a Harvard law student -- and a virgin. And I'm proud of it.

As I explain in my new book, "Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism Is Corrupting Our Future," in today's America, being a proud virgin is no easy task. Those with values are under attack in a culture that treasures "tolerance" above morality. It's no wonder that because of my outspoken advocacy of traditional morality in general and of virginity in particular, I've become a favorite target of Internet leftists, who often refer to me as "The Virgin Ben."
But let's return to his National Review column.
All of this is galling. That’s because it ignores a fundamental fact about human life: All human beings are capable of sin. And that means that the antidote to human frailty and brutality isn’t issuing broad-based mea culpas in behalf of groups, but working to instill virtue in individuals through prophylactic rules. But the leftist rubric forbids such inculcation, because that would be culturally oppressive and judgmental.
Right -- we want there to be no moral rules. That's why we regularly attempt to formulate rules for decent conduct -- between genders, among races and ethnic groups, among socioeconomic classes. When we do this, Shapiro calls it "political correctness" and says it breeds insanity and kills people.

But go on, Ben.
Take a look, for example, at the reaction to the sexual-misconduct media wave. Conservatives have long proclaimed that men, left unchecked, will act like pigs with regard to women. We have recognized that men tend to see women as potential sex objects and, without social boundaries, will treat women that way.
And this is different from liberals saying that men saying "My gender is terrible" how exactly?
In order to combat piggish behavior, conservatives have advocated for certain rules and a certain educational framework, built up over the course of centuries. Some of those rules include: social expectation that sex would be connected with marriage, thus cementing the connection between sexual activity and commitment; encouragement of marriage prior to sexual activity, thereby providing objective evidence for positive consent from the woman before an entire community of witnesses; carefully cultivated rules of conduct between men and women, including, in many religions, proscribed physical contact; expectation that men would protect women in chivalrous fashion.
Oh, conservatives have advocated for these rules. Are these the same conservatives who just elected a self-confessed serial sexual assailant with five children from three marriages, a guy who said that avoiding STDs while tomcatting around in the 1980s was his "personal Vietnam"? And I don't care that Shapiro is a #NeverTrumper. He hasn't broken with the conservative movement that supports Trump, because he still needs it for his career.
All of these rules have fallen under heavy attack — and sometimes the attacks have been justified by the over-restrictiveness of certain rules. But the basis for the rules was simple: Men could not be universally trusted not to sin against women. Call it male control, complete with background checks, mandatory training, and a well-developed male enforcement structure.

The Left, in its refusal to acknowledge the inherent flaws in humanity, decided to do away with the rules. Instead, men were bad because men had been poisoned by the social structure, or because they were screwed up by their parents. Rules were artificial barriers to progress. In fact, it was the rules themselves that were to blame for male misbehavior. Marriage had taught men that women were property; thus, kill marriage, kill that pernicious view. Sexual taboos had taught men that women were dangerous seductresses; kill that taboo, kill that pernicious view. Chivalry had taught men that women were weak, and could therefore be exploited; kill chivalry, kill that pernicious view.

It seemed nice in theory. It has failed dramatically in practice.
In the conservative parallel universe, it's always 1971, even for someone like Ben Shapiro, who was born in 1984. Who are these liberals who are trying to "kill marriage"? There's a strain of such thinking on the left that derives from the 1960s and early 1970s, but it never really took root. We liberals still get married -- remember, we're the people who fought to extend marriage to same-sex couples. Ben Shapiro still hates us for that.
It turns out that men are built with a certain capacity for sin. Tearing down fences only lets those sins break out of their confines. Male misbehavior has been championed as rogueish and delightful for decades; marriage has been mocked and derided; “prudish” notions have been rejected. Have women been freed of the male gaze? Are they safer now? Are they more comfortable in the workplace? Or, as we’re now finding out, are the wages of destroying boundaries on human behavior not freedom, but anarchy — and, for too many women, oppression by voracious men?
Yes, oppression by voracious men was invented in the 1960s. It didn't happen in "chivalrous" societies before then and it doesn't happen in traditionalist societies now. (Cough ISIS strongholds cough.) And if liberalism hasn't completely wiped out bad behavior, then we should stop writing exposés of predators and shut down all the harassment training by HR departments and just return to the days of chivalry and enforced chastity, because only strumpets and whores were victims of men's brutality in the good old days.
Apologizing for your gender won’t help. Suggesting that a bit more education will teach men not to rape won’t help, either.
What's the difference between our "education" and what you propose, Ben? That you believe yours was literally passed down on stone tablets? Even by your own admission, the rules in the past had a level of "over-restrictiveness." If we're just godless heathens and the rules from your utopian past were God-given, how did God make mistakes?
Only a proactive reinstitution of checks and balances in society will help. And that will require recognizing that human nature isn’t entirely malleable and that protecting women means requiring positive manhood, not wishful thinking.
Checks and balances are precisely what we want. But they're our checks and balances, and you're a good soldier in the conservative army, so you know that even good ideas have to be rejected if they come from us, otherwise your side won't win. And you know, or ought to know, that most of your fellow conservatives don't really want enforced pre-marital virginity, even for women. They only reason they seem to like it is that they think it induces liberal tears.

Thanks for sharing, Ben, but you really have nothing to offer.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


If you're wondering what your right-wing uncle is going to say on Thanksgiving about Roy Moore and other headline-grabbing sex predators, let me try to prepare you.

He's probably going to tell you that sexual misconduct is exclusively a liberal problem. He's likely to paraphrase what Rush Limbaugh said on the radio today:
... here’s the thing about this, folks, go through names here again. Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Louis C.K., John Conyers, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, Jeffrey Tambor, not a conservative among them.

Okay, we’ll put Roy Moore on the list, but I’m telling you Roy Moore can’t compete with these people. Roy Moore has got no business being on the same page or in the same league with these people, particularly Clinton, Louis C.K., Spacey, Weinstein, and Charlie Rose.
As long as the media continue to play this story straight -- going after predators across the political spectrum -- and as long as rank-and-file Democrats and liberals agree that the predators on our side really are predators, some of "our" guys are going to be highlighted, and even if Republicans are as well, the GOP noise machine will downplay or memory-hole all the Republicans and portray this as a purely Democratic/liberal problem. Bill O'Reilly? Roger Ailes? Donald Trump? James Woods, who creeped on Amber Tamblyn and her friends when they were 16 and he was in his fifties? Ralph Shortey, the Oklahoma Trump campaign chair who just pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking? To Limbaugh and his listeners, they don't even exist.

Your uncle will tell you, as Limbaugh does, that the media protects liberals, even as he's listing all the people identified as liberals who were exposed by the media:
How come it took Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood to break the dam? Why did it take what’s going on in Hollywood in this area to break the dam?

Why didn’t the dam break with Anthony Weiner, with Carlos Danger? Multiples times this guy is engaging in absolutely reprobate behavior. And the Democrats and the media circle the wagons to make sure that nobody else gets linked to it, and they do what they do to Carlos Danger, making him fall on a bunch of swords — he-he-he — his own — and try to limit it to that.

And I think the reason is that the Drive-By Media is more protective of the Democrats, especially the Clintons, than they are of Hollywood people. Even Hollywood people that are major donors, even Hollywood people that are major bundlers and fundraisers, at all costs it was protect the Democrats.
So the proof that the media protects Democrats is that Anthony Weiner was exposed, and Bill Clinton's sex life was exposed, and I guess Limbaugh forgot Eliot Spitzer. And Weinstein is categorized as a big, important Democrat when Limbaugh wants to say that all Democrats are evil, but not as an important Democrat when Limbaugh's point is that Democrats are protected by the press.

And then, incoherently, we're told that elected and non-elected liberals are protected by the media, because these liberals are the privileged elite:
And I’ll tell you, Charlie Rose is quintessential establishment, he is quintessentially protected.... They’re elites, by their own definition, by their own proclamation. They live in their beautiful bubbles here segregated from the reality of life for everybody else, full of beautiful people who think they are wonderful....

It’s a combination circle the wagons and self-protection. They have beautiful, multiple homes that get featured in things like Architectural Digest. The fan magazines, the gossip rags are constantly fawning all over them. They never get pad press. They never get investigative press. They never get judgmental press. The gossip media, the straight news and Drive-By Media idolize these people and want to consider themselves in the same circle of elitehood. But they are not normal.

And this is why Donald Trump, another one of the many reasons Trump was elected and remains on track to be reelected. These are not normal people, and they know they’re not normal, and they revel in being not normal. They’re not normal in the sense that they’re better, they’re smarter, they’re prettier, they’re richer. And they all hang together. They all hire each other and they protect each other. Which is fine, don’t misunderstand. But all of this is going on while they attempt to portray the way they think and the way they live and their own behavior as normal, as reflective of the hip culture of America. And it isn’t, and they are not.
Your uncle listened to this today and just nodded along: Charlie Rose is in a rarefied stratum of the economic elite -- and that's why America elected Donald Trump. In this Bizarro World version of America, Trump doesn't just treat women appropriately, he's not even part of the elite.

And forget Trump -- this is Rush Limbaugh, who a few years ago sold an overdecorated penthouse apartment in Manhattan with Central Park views for nearly $13 million....

... and who now lives in a Palm Beach oceanfront estate consisting of five houses, the largest of which, at 24,000 square feet, is his personal residence. We learn this from Limbaugh biographer Zev Chafets:
The "vast salon" is an homage to Versailles. The main guest suite is "an exact replica of the Presidential Suite of the Hotel George V in Paris." A "massive chandelier" in his dining room mimics one that hung in New York's Plaza Hotel. Knick-knacks include a full suit of armor and a "life-size oil portrait" of Limbaugh himself.

When at home, Limbaugh spends most of his time in his "inner sanctum" — a two-story library which is a "scaled-down version" of the library at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. "Cherubs dance on the ceiling, leatherbound collections line the bookshelves, and the wood-paneled walls were once, he told me happily, 'an acre of mahogany,'" writes Chafets.

Limbaugh drives himself around in a black Maybach 57 S (cost: $450,000), and keeps a "garage full of them" for his guests....

Chafets spots a brochure on Limbaugh's "onyx and marble" table for a Gulfstream G550, a $56 million private jet that the talk show host had recently bought. The biographer notes the "tastefully luxe" interiors and specs which include "armaments: CLASSIFIED."
But it's Charlie Rose who thinks he's above it all.

At the end of the day, though, it's not clear that Limbaugh think Rose and other sexual predators actually did anything particularly terrible. Limbaugh says:
Did you hear the usual apologies? I mean, Charlie talked to the Washington Post (paraphrasing), “You know, it’s essential these women understand that it’s not who I am, I’m sorry, and I really thought in a lot of these circumstances that it was mutual and that feelings were returned. I realize now that they weren’t, but I at the time, I really thought –” what bogus. And the sanctimony. The guy is still preaching even in his apology.

Just say, “Yeah, I did it, I’m sorry. You know what? I got caught. I like women. So nail me somewhere. I like women. I’m sorry. Put me in jail. I like women! I’m sorry. I know it’s a crime in America today, so do with me what you will. I like women. I thought they liked me, then I saw myself in the mirror and realized it couldn’t be true.” Something like that.

... Charlie should just, “Hey, I like women. I went too far with ’em. I like women, though. I know in New York, that’s not cool, but I do!”
Over and over again Limbaugh says, in Rose's voice, "I like women." He really believes that what Rose did is, well, just what you do when you like women. Oh, sure, he acknowledges that Rose "went too far with ’em" -- but while he's going to nail Rose for this, he doesn't really believe it's a terrible thing.

Maybe your right-wing uncle will take that tack, which is similar to what Breitbart editor Alex Marlow said on the radio today:
Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow says the way rape is defined has changed.

“Rape used to have a narrow definition. Rape used to have a definition where it was — it was brutality, it was forced sexual attack and penetration,” Marlow said on SiriusXM Patriot's Breitbart News Daily, according to Media Matters.

“Now it’s become, really, any sex that the woman ends up regretting that she had.”

Marlow said that "leaves us without a lot of clarity."

"Because when words lose their meaning, then they can be manipulated," he said. "Rape used to mean something. We used to all know what it meant. And now we don't know what it means. And then we don't know what's credible and what's not."
Elitist liberals (who are the only sex criminals) are regularly getting caught doing terrible things to women ... which aren't really that bad, are they?


"You're The President" is trending on Twitter, after Fox's Neil Cavuto criticized some of President Trump's tweets.
A Fox News host has condemned Donald Trump over his latest attacks on the father of a college basketball player and a Republican senator.

On Saturday, the US President said he should have left three UCLA basketball players “in jail” in China after LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo Ball, refused to thank Mr Trump for his son’s release....

Mr Trump then accused Jeff Flake of saying “bad things about your favourite President” after the Republican Senator was caught on camera criticising the billionaire and controversial Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore.

During a three-minute monologue, Fox News host Neil Cavuto said Mr Trump’s remarks “don’t even border on being human”.

Accusing him of using a “bazooka to respond to a peashooter”, Mr Cavuto said the President wanted to see “gratitude bordering on grovelling”.

“Pick your fights because neither of these scenes is worth the fuss,” he added. “You wanted a thank you, you got it. You wanted a reason to go after a Senator you hate, you pounced on it. But last time I checked you are the President of the United States. Why don’t you act like it?”

Is Fox becoming disillusioned with Trump?

Nope. Cavuto is a Fox veteran who's never attained the status of Sean Hannity or, until recently, Bill O'Reilly. He's expressing (to put it mildly) a minority viewpoint at Fox.

Now let's take a look at what a rising young Fox star thinks.

Tomi Lahren: Trump Tweets at LaVar Ball and Mainstream Media Falls All Over Itself

... It all started when 3 UCLA basketball players decided to steal designer sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store while their team was in China.

Now that’s just pathetic on its own, but instead of rotting in a Chinese prison, they are back in cushy California.

How? Donald Trump is how.

But basketball equivalent of a Kardashian-Father of the Year - LaVar Ball - didn’t see it that way.

See, LaVar Ball doesn’t seem to think Donald Trump was much of a help and LaVar Ball also doesn’t think shoplifting is a big deal. Well Mr. Ball, maybe not in cushy California but in China, it is.
(Lahren herself is based in "cushy California," whose laws she seems to respect less than the laws of China.)
I guess LaVar Ball is not familiar with the case of Otto Warmbier, an American student in North Korea who was tortured and later died after being detained on charges that he tried to steal a poster from his hotel.

Mr. Ball, your klepto kid doesn’t have to worry about that because Donald Trump personally stepped in and made sure he got home.
(Yes, Lahren thinks that China might actually have inflicted mortal injuries on the three basketball players in prison. She believes, I guess, that China worries as little about grievously offending the U.S. as North Korea does.)
... Can you imagine what they would have said if Trump hadn't stepped in?

Oh, the race card would’ve been slapped down so hard our ears would still be ringing.

But he did, and y’all are still not happy and you’re still slapping down the race card! Why? Because Trump sent off another mean tweet.

Get over it. It’s a freakin’ tweet. What are you gonna do about it? Scream at the sky again? Make a sign and stand outside of Trump tower during traditional working hours, again? Wear a dumb hat and resist, again?

Go for it!
(Those scream-at-the-sky events that took place on the anniversary of Trump's election got zero attention in the left-wing and mainstream media, but are mentioned endlessly in the right-wing media. I don't know anyone who participated in them. Do you?)
His tweets offend you, we get it. It’s not “presidential,” we get it.

Well here’s the cold hard truth, we had a “presidential” president for 8 years and it got us nowhere.

Look at diplomatic relations under Obama. All of our enemies got stronger....
("All of our enemies got stronger." At the bottom of the ocean, Osama bin Laden would beg to differ.)
That was President Obama being “presidential. That’s what 8 years of bowing to the world and apologizing for America looks like.

Well the apology tour is over and if your biggest issue with Trump is what he tweets, I think your little snowflake heart will be just fine.

Trump is Trump and I’ve got news for you, he’s not changing. He's effective and quite frankly, he gets a kick out of watching mainstream leftist media hacks lose their minds each time he lays down 280 characters.
(Wait -- what was that list thing you said, Tomi? I missed it because I was laughing so hard after you said, "He's effective.")
If the American people wanted a limp noodle in office we would have voted for low-energy Jeb or full-blown Democrat John Kasich.

Yet, here we are. If Trump didn’t tweet, half of you “journalists” would have to research real stories so thank your lucky stars you just get to sit back and scroll through Twitter and wait to be offended.
That's Fox's superstar of the future calling critics of Trump's tweets "media hacks" and "snowflakes." I think she's talking to you, Neil.

Monday, November 20, 2017


Tom Steyer is throwing good money after bad:
Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist and Democratic mega donor, said he’s heading to the heart of New York City for the next step of his $20 million ad campaign urging the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

“We’re putting a couple of large billboards in Times Square calling for the impeachment of the president,” Steyer said Monday in an interview. “We legitimately feel that this is the huge issue in front of the American people that no one is standing up for what the overwhelming number of Americans think.”
It pains me that Donald Trump is president, and he certainly deserves impeachment and removal from office. But it's not true that impeachment is what "the overwhelming number of Americans" want. In the poll showing the greatest support for impeachment, an October Public Policy Polling survey, 49% of respondents favored it, while 41% opposed it. That's a plurality, but not a majority, and certainly not an "overwhelming" majority. In an August Harvard/Harris poll, 43% of respondents favored impeachment, while 42% backed no action and 12% backed censure. Also in August, the Public Religion Research Institute found 40% support for impeachment.

So Congress isn't failing to do what the public wants. It's failing to do what not quite half of the public wants. More to the point, it's failing to do what Tom Steyer wants. Steyer is another billionaire who's so used to getting his way on everything that he thinks it's a monstrous injustice when he's rebuffed. He's just like a Koch brother, except on the side of good. I'm sorry he's being rebuffed, but if he were a non-billionaire, he might have a better understanding of disappointment.

Trump won't be impeached as long as there's a Republican House, and he can't be convicted in the Senate unless 67 senators vote to convict. Currently, there are 46 Democratic senators and 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats. So unless you can name 19 Republican senators who'd vote to convict, why are we even having this conversation now?

I'm not the first person to say this, but $20 million could be put to much better use supporting Democratic candidates and funding voter registration drives and turnout efforts. Every dime devoted to this crusade could be better spent.

And Times Square? Really? I arrived in New York City as a college freshman in 1976, and even by then Times Square had long since ceased to be the symbolic center of America. It gets attention on New Year's Eve, but it's meaningless every other day of the year. It's become a crowded pedestrian mall, and I'm sure I'd visit if I were an out-of-towner on vacation (although no local thinks there's any good reason to go there). It's not America's agora. It's a ridiculous tourist trap. Steyer's ads will be one more bit of sensory overload families from Iowa will see fleetingly on their way to The Lion King.


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was widely criticized after he and his wife were photographed happily brandishing a sheet of uncut dollar bills. Mnuchin's dismissal of some of the criticism is peculiar:
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said he takes it as a compliment that some people suggested that he and his wife looked like villains from a "James Bond" movie when they posed with newly printed currency.

“I never thought I’d be quoted as looking like villains from the 'James Bond' [movies]. I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful 'James Bond' movie,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday."
When ordinary humans refer to a real person as a Bond villain, we mean that the person seems like an outsize caricature of an evil person but is actually evil. But to Mnuchin -- who in his previous life was a executive producer of dozens of movies -- everything is content. He's being compared to a character in a film series that does boffo B.O. -- so it's all good!

Is this a rich guy's indifference to the concerns and fears of the peasants? Is it some variety of autistic-spectrum tunnel vision? I think it's a combination of the two. In any case, I don't expect any empathy from Mnuchin. I don't think he's capable of it.


Erik Loomis writes:
Only in the New Gilded Age would a high official see himself and his wife photographed as vile kleptocrats, be compared to the villains in Bond movies, and take the comparison as a compliment.
Yes, but Mnuchin is not the first member of a Republican administration to proclaim an affinity with a fictional character who lacks basic human decency. Remember White House counselor Edwin Meese's December 1983 National Press Club speech?
The presidential aide ... surprised the audience by concluding his speech by defending Scrooge, the fictional character in Charles Dickens,' 'A Christmas Carol,' who overworks and underpays employee Bob Cratchit.

The crowd gasped as Meese -- without indicating in any way that he was joking -- said:

'Scrooge had a bad press in his time. If you really look at the facts, he didn't exploit Bob Cratchit. As a matter of fact, Bob Cratchit was paid 10 shillings a week -- which was a very good wage at that time.

'Furthermore, the free market would not allow Scrooge to exploit poor Bob. England didn't get free public schools until after Dickens was dead. So that the fact Bob Cratchit could read and write made him a very valuable clerk.

'He had good cause to be happy with his situation. His wife didn't have to work. He was able to afford the traditional Christmas dinner of roast goose and plum pudding.

'So let's be fair to Scrooge. He had his faults, but he wasn't unfair to anyone,' Meese said.
Eleven months later, the president Meese served, Ronald Reagan, won reelection in a 49-state landslide.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Deplorable whisperer Salena Zito wonders why everyone hasn't heard the awesome news:
Glen Dale, W. Va. — Bad news travels fast. Good news, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to travel at all.

Last weekend in Beijing, as part of his 12-day trip to Asia, President Trump announced that the US and China had signed an $83.7 billion memorandum of understanding to create a number of petrochemical projects in West Virginia over the next 20 years.

If the agreement holds tight, it is an economic game changer for the state.

And yet, speaking to the locals here, you wouldn’t even know it had happened.
Much of the blame, she believes, falls on the mainstream media:
“I am surprised I heard nothing about it on the national news, nor in my local paper and newscasts,” said Jerald Stephens, 67, a West Virginia native and union rep, who has been a keen observer of local politics for as long as he can remember.

The BBC and CNN covered the news in their business sections, while The New York Times picked up a short story by The Associated Press on the deal. The stories’ headlines were muted; their placement low-key....

Stephens finds the lack of coverage telling. “I can guarantee you if anyone not named Trump had made this kind of deal for West Virginia, it would have at least been a panel discussion or two on a cable news channel.”

Once again, the media is missing a story that matters to the American people outside the liberal echo chamber.
I found plenty of stories about this -- and one reason it's not getting massive headlines is that the deal isn't really a deal at all. Here's one response to this and other U.S.-China deals that were announced during Trump's trip, which were valued at a total of $250 billion:
“I am somewhat skeptical of such a large number,” Alex Wolf, senior emerging markets economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments, told the Reuters Global Markets Forum....

“I suspect they might be primarily MOUs (memorandum of understandings) instead of actual contracts and the actual contract amount may be substantially less.”
In fact, a memorandum of understanding is exactly what was signed -- and for West Virginia, nothing is guaranteed:
Governor Jim Justice and state commerce secretary Woody Thrasher held a press conference Monday to outline how the deal came about, but didn’t provide specifics about the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, between Chinese industry leaders and West Virginia government officials.

Thrasher revealed last week that early projects would include two natural gas-fired power plants, likely in Harrison and Brooke counties, with construction potentially starting in the next six to eight months. He and officials from the Shenhua Group, who are part of the state-owned China Energy company, have agreed at this point to not release additional projects or the MOU, which is understood to not be legally binding.

“I don't want to get into the specifics of the projects," said Thrasher. "There's a whole wide series of projects. Can I guarantee you that they're going to spend 83 billion dollars in 20 years? No. But what I can guarantee you is: the governor has directed me to do everything within my power to facilitate these projects going forward.”
So even the governor isn't prepared to say that it will really be an $83 billion deal. And no official will identify the forthcoming projects apart from two that will "potentially" begin this year.

As a Bloomberg story noted,
Without a contractual obligation, there’s no guarantee developments agreed to in an memorandum will get funded and built.

"At the end of the day what really counts is contracts," Jason Feer, head of business intelligence at Poten & Partners Inc. in Houston, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "An MoU is usually an agreement to continue talking."
And this deserves huge front-page headlines, Salena?


UPDATE: A reader emails me:
I am always suspicious of highly political quotes with vague attribution. So my eye was struck by that quote in the Zito item you cited from "Jerald Stephens, 67, a West Virginia native and union rep, who has been a keen observer of local politics for as long as he can remember" ...

Well, here is what is apparently Jerald's Facebook page and surprise surprise he turns out to be a right-wing loon:

As you see, it is replete with over-the-top deification of Trump and damnation of Clinton, along with generous sprinklings of racism and homophobia. Funny how Zito left all that out in her bland description of Jerald.
My correspondent also couldn't find any online evidence of Stephens's union activity or reputation as a political sage. But the Facebook page is a gold mine of wingnuttery, from the avatar...

... to the featured and recent photos...

... to this shared post (of course):

Yeah, just another proud, honorable working man whom we liberals disrespect because we're hate-filled elitists.


There are no Clintons holding public office now, and it's unlikely there will be any in the future unless Chelsea or one of her kids decides to run. So there's not much going on in America that Maureen Dowd can blame on Bill or Hillary. In desperation, she declares that while predatory behavior directed against women is a big news story right now, it wouldn't have been if Hillary had been elected president. Therefore, we can blame Hillary and Bill counterfactually for the continued suppression of this story that didn't actually happen.

Dowd writes:
Would the war against preying on women be blazing so fiercely had Hillary Clinton been elected?

When I interviewed women in Hollywood about the ugly Harvey Weinstein revelations in The Times and The New Yorker, they told me that feelings of frustration and disgust at having an accused predator in the White House instead of the first woman president had helped give the story velocity.
Dowd is saying that Donald Trump's election gave impetus to the Weinstein story (though we don't know whether the anonymous women she quotes know anything about the victims who spoke out or their motives). But in effect, Dowd frames this in her lead sentence as "Fortunately, Hillary lost." Dowd never misses an opportunity to say that the Clintons are bad for America.

And if you think I'm hairsplitting, note that Dowd goes on to write this:
It is also interesting to speculate: If Hillary were in the Oval, would some women have failed to summon the courage to tell their Weinstein horror stories because the producer was also a power behind the Clinton throne? As Janice Min, the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, told me, when Barack Obama stepped off a stage and into Weinstein’s arms for a big hug after giving a $400,000 speech as an ex-president in the spring, it sent a signal that the ogre was in a protected magic circle.
Dowd contradicts herself in two sentences. She says that Obama's embrace of Weinstein earlier this year demonstrated that Weinstein is "in a protected magic circle" -- and yet victims went public against Weinstein this year, so the message sent by that embrace wasn't heeded. Yes, Obama was no longer president, and neither was Hillary Clinton. But the entertainment industry is centered in the Democratic states of California and New York. The reporters who brought Weinstein down wrote for New York publications. The stories ran anyway. So why should we believe that fear of Democratic power brokers would have silenced the women who spoke out, or the journalists who wrote about them?

Dowd writes:
And, finally, would Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other liberals still be saying in the past few days that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency over his own sexual misdeeds if he now occupied the first lady’s quarters and reigned over a potent Clinton political machine?
After suggesting that the reckoning wouldn't have happened if the election had gone a different way, Dowd shifts gears and imagines that we would have had a big wave of harassment and assault stories even with Hillary in the White House. That's certainly what I believe. After Bill Cosby's many rapes were brought to light, and after the press revisited the story of Woody Allen's alleged sexual assault on a child, journalists were going to pursue Weinstein, regardless of how the election turned out.

I'll give Dowd this much: I agree that Democrats would be reluctant to attack Bill Clinton for this if he were the First Gentleman. But Republicans wouldn't.

Hillary Clinton would have taken office under siege. Congressional investigations aimed at the discovery of high crimes and misdemeanors would already be under way. Then this would have been thrown into the mix. For openers, there'd be demands to take away Bill's offices in the White House and to withhold funds for any of his official activities. There'd be new congressional hearings and investigations. Decades-old sexual assault allegations would probably supersede Benghazi and Uranium One as priority issues in the halls of Congress and on Fox News. I voted for Hillary, but I'm glad we're not relitigating all this under those circumstances.

In any case, I don't believe Hillary's election would have prevented the discussion of powerful men's sex crimes. I don't believe the Clintons wield that kind of power. But I'm not Maureen Dowd.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


In The New York Times right now, there's a story about President Trump's decision to weigh in on the Al Franken sexual harassment/assault story, even through Trump has faced allegations of his own sexual misconduct from sixteen women. So why isn't Trump facing a reckoning now? After Harvey Weinstein and all the others, why aren't we focusing on Trump's behavior?

I think the layout of the Times story explains it:

This is what we talk about when we talk about Trump's sexual behavior: the bus. We talk about Trump discussing sexual assault in that Access Hollywood video. We focus on his words.

We watched that clip over and over. It dominated the news cycle for days. It's lodged in our memories. But there's nothing equally memorable from Trump's accusers. There was never a day when the news cycle was dominated by the story of someone accusing Trump of harassment or assault.

With Roy Moore, we focused first on horrifying stories from accusers. An accuser's story directed our attention to Al Franken. We learned about the behavior of Weinstein, James Toback, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and others from news reports of appalling behavior. The men's version of events was never the first story, or the most compelling one.

But does it matter? Isn't Trump confessing to horrible behavior? Not if you want to believe in him. If you do, you just tell yourself it was "locker room talk" and shrug it off as empty boasting. Even if you believe it, it doesn't have the impact of victims' accounts.

There are other reasons we haven't been able to focus on Trump's sexual behavior -- his ability to hijack the news cycle with other forms of aberrant behavior, his position of power, the fact that Republicans protect their own. But the main reason is that we've never had a day when the news was dominated by one or more riveting, persuasive accounts of Trump's predatory activity.

We can hope that the press will revisit the old stories and give us a day like that, but the press likes news that's new, so a moment like that probably won't come unless a new and believable accuser emerges with a terrible story. Or maybe we'll pay attention if a harassment lawsuit against Trump finally goes to trial. But until one of those things happens, Trump is going to skate on this.