Friday, April 07, 2017


NEW photo: Kushner/Mnuchin/Ross/TRUMP/Tillerson/Reince/Cohn/Powell/Bannon/Miller in the Mar-a-Lago secure room last night. (via @presssec) -- @SteveKopack

TRUMP: I don't get it. I thought you'd show me things blowing up. This is a bunch of dots and lines.

MATTIS: This is a strategy map, Mr. President. The explosions have already taken place --

TRUMP: How do I know that? You could be bullshitting me. Like when they quote unquote killed Bin Laden. Can't you get someone to bring me back a skeleton? And maybe a certificate of authenticity, you know, like they have for baseball memorabilia.

[Knock on the door.]

PRIEBUS: Sir, you did tell Secret Service to secure this area?

TRUMP: Relax, I recognize that knock. [yells] C'mon in, Rodolfo.

[A waiter enters with a cart.]

TRUMP: Great, now we can eat. Listen, guys, I didn't have time to take orders, but there's some roast beef, turkey and I think vegetable wraps. All kinds of chips. And I think Coke and Diet Coke.

[Waiter hands out food.]

TRUMP: Oh, and we got Bannon a pastrami on rye. Get it? Okay, no one's got a sense of humor.

[As waiter leaves, KUSHNER drops a fifty on his cart.]

ROSS: Say, Mr, President -- What's that sound?

TRUMP: I told you. That's the ice machine.

ROSS: No, no, a different sound, next door.

TRUMP: What? Everybody pipe down.

[Room freezes; sound unmistakably of a couple having intercourse in the next room. TRUMP gets up and goes to the wall.]

TRUMP: [knocks on wall] Alright, knock it off in there! [no response] Can you believe these two? What is that, the honeymoon suite? [knocks on wall again; no response] Rex, how about you go over there and tell 'em whats what.

TILLERSON: What? I can't do that!

TRUMP: OK, tell you what you do, you tell those kids we're upgrading their room, penthouse suite, you call down to the desk, Enzio will take care of everything. [fishes out wallet] Here, give 'em a couple of these coupons, they can have a good time in the lounge. Tell 'em it's on the President. That always gets them to cooperate. You should see how the Chinese ate it up. [opens the door for TILLERSON.]

TILLERSON: Mr. President, this, this just doesn't make sense. I'm the Secretary of State!

TRUMP: Alright. [points to lone woman in room] Sweetheart, what's your name?

POWELL: Dina Powell, sir. I'm the deputy national advisor for strategy.

TRUMP: That's nice. Here, take the coupons and get those kids outta there. Attagirl. [POWELL leaves. Room is silent but for the sound from next door] Good thing she left. I'm starting to feel a little horny. [points to the screen] Listen, can we get Pong on that thing?


The greatest of all time, 1926-2017.

•  You could take any Don Rickles long-form appearance, like the one above, and if you really watch it you see that while its savage brio is of a piece with the aggressive attention-hogging that was the hallmark of mid-century American stand-up, it's not just "insult comedy" -- it's a wild, highly energetic and inventive series of riffs, very jazzy, with judicious shifts in timbre and dynamics -- some of them starkly surreal, like the bit that starts around 8:40 about a coxswain from Rickles' U.S. Navy days, where he demands from "the boom man -- the one with the hearing problem" that the boom mike be lowered and, when it doesn't happen fast enough, laments, "40 million boom men and we gotta get Johnny Ray's Uncle." The audience laughs, I laugh -- but what the hell does that even mean? I mean I know who Johnny Ray was, but his uncle? It's like his famous put-down, "hockey puck" -- it makes poetic rather than literal sense; and, even better, it's poetry that makes you laugh. He made me laugh since I was a boy, every time, and while his anarchic hostility had a lot to do with it, so did that mad poetry. He was literally the best.

•  Ah, again with the Syria? Well, I didn't like it in 2013 and I don't like it now. And now would be a good time to review some of my writings from when the Republicans were dead set against Obummer's Syrian adventure -- not for sound non-interventionist reasons, but for hilariously made-up ones. (Special guest star: Megan McArdle!) It's also a good time to note that in 2013 Republicans had a bill before the House to impeach Obama if he started shit with Syria. I have a funny feeling they're not putting in a similar bill now.

•  The New York Post is good (that is to say, evil) at absurd "Is Famous Guy We Regularly Pimp/Revile Running For This Big Office?" stories, like this classic Chris Christie 2012 bullshit ("It would be a dramatic change of heart for the portly, pugnacious pol..."). But this week's "Donald Trump Jr. talks about running for governor of New York" makes Fred Dicker look like H.L. Mencken:
Don Jr. spoke to members of the F6 Labs gun club in Hicksville, NY, and, when asked about his political ambitions, said he would love to follow his father, President Donald Trump, into office.
Oh, I bet the upscale gun nuts who can only dream of going to Africa and killing endangered species like the Trump Boys loved hearing that.
A guest at Tuesday’s meeting told Page Six, “Don Jr. said he is interested in running for office, such as governor of New York, but the position of mayor of New York would be less interesting to him.” 
Don Jr. added that he didn’t want to be one of 100 Senators, nor a member of Congress.
Dream big, Little Donnie! I don't think this is getting even the mamalukes in Gerritsen Beach hard. Trumplet talks a lot about himself and what he'd like out of life ("Do I want to be behind the scenes and be a mouthpiece and fight back against crazy liberal media?") but where does he stand on policy? The Post only finds him saying this much:
...Don Jr. said he would oppose anything that restricts the Second Amendment, and he supports state reciprocity laws, which allow guns to be carried from state to state with a permit.
Well, that's certain to win him all the counties out in Bumfuck where yokels buy the Post and dream of an alternative New York where white people bring the dusky hordes to heel.  But in the actual state, not so much. Besides, we all know Ed Cox and the drooling yahoos of NYGOP will run Carl Paladino again, because he really, how you say, represents their values.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


Megan McArdle puts her hands on her hips, sighs forcefully, and wonders why the gosh darn heck Democrats can't cooperate with Trump's accomplices in Congress?
Ah, the joys of doing nothing. Republicans must remember them fondly, as they struggle with the difficulties of actually designing real-world bills that have to get past the Senate, and y’know, not hideously offend large numbers of voters. 
Democrats, meanwhile, are discovering the sweet, toddler-like joys of just saying “no” to everything. Help Republicans repeal Obamacare? Heck no. Quietly stand by while Republicans approve an eminently qualified nominee to the Supreme Court? No, no, no! 
After years of failing at the grown-up business of passing legislation, small wonder the Democrats would like to let the Republicans have a try at being the adults in the room. In politics, saying "no" is a great deal of fun. 
Now the Democrats are investing in "increasingly counterproductive obstructionism," says McArdle, and to her it's just like when the Republicans shut down the government in 2013 -- except the Democrats aren't trying to shut down the government, they're just doing what opposition parties do -- that is, voting against legislation that betrays all their principles. They're saying "heck no," "toddler-like," to the repeal of their biggest single legislative achievement since Medicare.

Also, McArdle complains, the wicked Dems are filibustering Republicans' wingnut nominee for the Supreme Court. Some of my readers with normal memory spans may remember that last year Republicans didn't even allow Merrick Garland's nomination a vote on the Senate floor. There's no record of McArdle calling Republicans toddlers over that -- though in February she did say that "If I were a liberal, I would be filled with the kind of blind, existential rage that... well, that filled conservatives when Democrats passed Obamacare on a straight-line party vote using a parliamentary maneuver." Ha ha, psych, libtards! Sounds like she's in favor of fire-with-fire -- but as longtime readers will know, with McArdle that train only goes one way, and if Democrats has the cheek to filibuster Gorsuch, she then warned, she would be very, very disappointed:
Is the idea that we just won’t nominate anyone to the Supreme Court any more, unless one party happens to hold both the White House and a 60-vote majority in the Senate? It’s one thing to reject nominees individually, on ideological or other grounds. But “only my party gets to select Supreme Court justices” is not really a workable political norm. At least, not if we want a working Supreme Court.
“Only my party gets to select Supreme Court justices” -- that sounds very close to something a Majority Leader has said in living memory. McArdle also talked about what a disgrace it was that Democrats blocked the madman Robert Bork from raving from the high bench, and counseled Democrats "stop, take a careful assessment of their tactical position, and imagine what battles they might need to hoard their ammunition for" -- that is, cave, and lie in a heap waiting for McArdle to pin a gold star on them.

Meanwhile Steve Bannon has been dropped from Mr. 34 Percent's National Security Council -- not too big a deal, as this administration is still full of crooks and crackpots and it isn't as if Bannon has been exiled to Siberia, but a good reminder that pressure from the opposition is neither meaningless nor without effect, And the people who strain their rhetorical muscles trying to convince you it is, well, they do not, despite their passive-aggressive for-your-own-good shtick, have your best interests at heart.

Monday, April 03, 2017


Donald Trump tweets FBI to tell them about Fox News story
Donald Trump has apparently used Twitter to alert the FBI to allegations of "electronic surveillance" against him. 
The President cited reports by Fox News suggesting he and "people close to" him had been monitored before his nomination as Republican candidate, and tagged @FBI... 
Mr Trump said: "Such amazing reporting on unmasking and the crooked scheme against us by @foxandfriends. 'Spied on before nomination.' The real story 
".@FoxNews from multiple sources: 'There was electronic surveillance of Trump, and people close to Trump. This is unprecedented.' @FBI".
On the one hand, in my experience this is very much what crazy people do -- "ah, good, the police are here, now you can arrest the real criminals!" It's Dale Gribble territory.

On the other hand, it's also the stuff of conspiracy thrillers, so maybe that's his play: To convince fans that he's like Will Smith in Enemy of the State, only (bonus!) white.

In a similar vein, I think they'll try to spin Ivanka's and Jared's White House takeover, which looks to sane people like Trump handing off the boring gummint stuff to the kids so he has more time to grift the living shit out of his office, as a mashup of Legally Blonde and Dave. Negotiating with North Koreans is a snap when you have confidence in yourself!

Meanwhile top-shelf conservatives seem to be fretting that, if America is still standing when Trump escapes in a Cessna full of bullion, its people may not think kindly of their movement, which the President has been using the way General Mapache used a gatling gun -- that is, as the weapon of mass destruction his foreign enablers meant it to be, but with less discipline and more collateral damage than they had hoped -- and may not want to hear their shit anymore.

Take Ross Douthat, who announces that he sees the administration's "incompetence and chaos," but will continue "coming up with constructive advice for the Trump White House" as "a useful way of avoiding the depressing subject of the Trump administration’s first 100 days." He's full of shit. His plea for a Trump "think tank" is clearly floated in hopes that one of the drooling loons in the White House will awaken from his cocaine dog-dish inspired to hire him.  But Douthat feels he must play it cagey, so instead of proposing himself he suggests some even less plausible bigbrains -- like Mickey Kaus. I'm almost sorry it can't happen:
TRUMP: So you're Kaus, huh? I thought you wore that fedora everyplace. That was your signature, wasn't it? Like Charlie Chaplin with that bowler, or The Situation with those glasses that hung off his chin. You should stick with it. I gotta say, I didn't recognize you. I was gonna tell these Secret Service guys to mess you up good. 
KAUS: Now, Mr. President, I'm suppose to give you advice. I brought a plan for an infrastructure initiative that-- 
TRUMP: I saw you a couple years back with that Ann Coulter. Always respected her because she never got fat. Some of them, their career goes down the drain and they start packing on the pounds. You banging her? 
KAUS: Ha, that's very flattering. Now, I had these notes put in a lovely leather binder -- 
TRUMP: Feels like a pillow. What'm I supposed to do with this? Let me see: "Infrastructure for America: Bridges and Tunnels to the 21st Century." What is this, an insult, this bridge and tunnel thing? Trying to say something? Fuck you. 
KAUS: No, Mr. President, it's about bridges and tunnels, you said you -- 
TRUMP: [to Secret Service] OK, boys, take care of this guy. [Secret Service, nervous but having been shown a film on war crimes, do not move] Ugh, same shit I get from the Joint Chiefs. Alright, get out of here, Kaus. And hey, I don't want to see you in Maxwell's Plum for the next two years, capisce


...about that Mike Pence sexual self-segregation thing that was going the rounds last week. Among the outtakes, Charles Two Middle Initials Cooke defending Pence's unwillingness to eat alone with women to whom he's not married with an analogy:
I am fairly sure that I could smoke a large number of cigarettes before I became addicted, and, indeed, that I could indulge in them casually without ramping up my habit. As such, I’m not averse to having the occasional smoke. But suppose I were averse to that. Suppose, instead, that I was unwilling to embark on even the first step of that journey. Suppose that, in defense of my health and my wallet, I drew a much harsher line in the sand. Well, why the hell would that matter? What possible failing could that be held to imply? Caution is no vice when the end is so undesirable.
So, women are like cigarettes: Some people just can’t handle them, and by “people” I of course mean men.

Friday, March 31, 2017


Peggy Noonan:
Near the end of the campaign I wrote a column called “Imagine a Sane Donald Trump,” lamenting that I believed he was crazy, and too bad. Too bad because his broad policy assertions, or impulses, suggested he understood that 2008 and the years just after (the crash and the weak recovery) had changed everything in America, and that the country was going to choose, in coming decades, one of two paths—a moderate populism or socialism—and that the former was vastly to be preferred, for reasons of the nation’s health. A gifted politician could make his party the leader toward that path, which includes being supportive and encouraging of business but willing to harness government to alleviate the distress of the abandoned working class and the anxious middle class; strong on defense but neither aggressive nor dreamy in world affairs; realistic and nonradical on social issues while unmistakably committed to protecting the freedoms of the greatest cohering force in America, its churches; and aware that our nation’s immigration reality was a scandal created by both parties, and must be redressed.

You could discern, listening to his interviews and speeches, that this was more or less where Donald Trump stood.
Really? She got that from Trump's belligerent yammerings? I suppose you could also "discern" from them that he was the seventh son of the seventh mother, or Death Destroyer of Worlds, if you had taken enough Diviner's Potion at P.J. Clarke's.

Well, 70 days in, Noonan has decided oh my, this Administration is not going well at all. And you know what the problem is? No, it's not that a pack of cheap grifters seized the White House and, in furtherance of its crimes, allows rightwing psychos to destroy the country -- It's the servants!
His staff has failed to absorb the obvious fact that Mr. Trump was so outsized, colorful, and freakish a character that their primary job, and an easy one it was, was to be the opposite—sober, low-key, reassuring. Instead they seemed to compete with him for outlandishness.
It's sort of like Benson, if the Governor were a vicious psychopath.

As for the President himself, Noonan can only shake her head and wonder what went wrong:
It amazes me that in his dealings with the health-care bill Mr. Trump revealed that he has no deep knowledge of who his base is, who his people are. I’ve never seen that in politics.
Honey, he has no deep knowledge of anything except ways to separate suckers from their money.
...But Mr. Trump’s supporters didn’t like the bill. If they had wanted a Republican president who deals only with the right, to produce a rightist bill, they would have chosen Ted Cruz. Instead they chose someone outside conservatism who backed big-ticket spending on infrastructure and opposed cutting entitlements, which suggested he’d be working with Democrats, too.
As I have noted many times, Noonan is all kinds of disingenuous and will sometimes play dumb to look cute, but these days I'm genuinely beginning to question the arterial flow to her brain. She seems to think voters carefully weigh multiple policy vectors -- "hmm, Trump says 'Ahma gunna kill Obamacare Ahm so great' in such a way that I expect my particular health care needs will be met" -- instead of just going "Big TV Star yell at Messicans, Me hate Messicans, Negro eat T-bone steak, me like way he yell," etc.

But of course Noonan has to pretend that, because to admit that the Trump tide is an id monster would be to admit that the electorate, or at least the new Republican section of it, is beyond her prissy ministrations and passive-aggressive bullshit; they won't be swayed by tea-cakes now they've tasted blood. Being prudent, she now has to prepare for a possible anti-Trump backlash -- but instead of portraying them as a mob turning on its master, she has to suggest they were misled -- by Hollywood!
...Their sense of how a White House works came from news shows and reading, and also from TV shows such as “House of Cards” and “Scandal.” Those are dark, cynical shows that more or less suggest anyone can be president. I don’t mean that in the nice way. Those programs don’t convey how a White House is an organism demanding of true depth, of serious people, real professionals. A president has to be a serious person too, and not only an amusing or stimulating talker, or the object of a dream.
Yes, somewhere along the way the yeoman farmer was corrupted by premium cable. I wonder how she'll react if, whatever happens with this administration, she must confront the fact that her people no longer feel the need to even act as if they care about her good opinion.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Megan McArdle has seen the future and it's Mormons! She has returned from Salt Lake City to tell us that religious and racial homogeneity makes everything better. As does marriage, of course!

Utah is sparsely populated and its government is tightly intertwined with the LDS Church, which (as Chris Lehmann points out on his excellent McArdle reponse at The Baffler) is rich as fuck -- imagine Vatican City as a U.S. state. The Utah government spends big money on getting businesses to relocate to Utah, but, unlike in other theo-Republican states, a lot of money also gets spent on -- record scratch! -- social services, much of it directly by the Church rather than the government, via projects like "Welfare Square," through which Church elders give their pauper charges food that will "sustain human life, not lifestyle" so they don't get too comfortable.

How much is Church and how much is State? McArdle's kind of hazy on that:
Once I got there, I found that it’s hard to even get a complete picture of how Utah combats poverty, because so much of the work is done by the Mormon Church, which does not compile neat stacks of government figures for the perusal of eager reporters.
That's one of the benefits of small-government, big-religion -- no tedious supporting documents! Of course you could, if you were interested, find some government paperwork like the Utah Intergenerational Welfare Reform Commission 2016 report which would tell you that "the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) is the primary funding source for Utah’s child care system." It also contains nuggets like "It is worth noting that participation in [SNAP, child care subsidies, Medicaid, CHIP, et alia] does not necessarily reveal dependence on public assistance." Big Government on the downlow!

But McArdle doesn't want to get into "sanitary, clinical terms" like economists use to describe this paradise because "these are easier to quantify than a dream, but also less satisfying." And she has found a Dream -- the best kind: The American!-- in Utah. Salt Lake City has more upward mobility than Charlotte, North Carolina -- there a person has a nearly 11% "likelihood of moving from the poorest quintile to the richest" as opposed to 4%. Why, that's almost like getting three lottery tickets for the price of one! And since the Church is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, she doesn't have to give Big Government any props.

But if you know McArdle, you know she can't quite come out and say the solution is to have everyone join this religion -- that would be blasphemous to Mammon. But she does suggest some ways we can replicate Utah's results. Naturally there's a lot of her customary marriage-makes-you-rich guff. And there's an element that's even creepier. McArdle finds the poverty discussions she has with the Utahns don't include any mention of race -- "No proposal was immediately decried as racist. Truly surreal to a Washingtonian and a recovering New Yorker," ha ha, amirite -- and intuits it's because Utah has very few black people, mainly because the Church spent years trying to keep them out.

She could have just moved on from there, but it's like she can't help herself:
This near-absence of racial diversity means that racism is largely left out of Utah’s conversations about economic inequality. That leads to some conversations around inequality that would be unbearably fraught elsewhere. When the poor people are, by and large, the same race as the richer ones, people find it easier to talk about them the way they might talk about, well, family members — as folks who may have made some mistakes and started with some disadvantages, but also as folks who could be self-sufficient after a little help from an uncle or a sister. It’s a very different conversation from “victim”/“oppressor” and “us”/“them”: a conversation that recognizes that poor people often make choices that keep them in poverty, but also that the constraints of poverty, including the social environment of poor neighborhoods, make it very difficult to make another choice.
If only we didn't have to deal with this "victim"/"oppressor" stuff! Then we could really talk, as if these people were members of our family (except, ha ha, come on).

Inevitably we get the Putnam Maneuver, the polite conservative's way of saying stick to your own kind:
It’s not clear that we can have those same sorts of conversations in the places that are still struggling more openly and frequently with the legacy of slavery, or the inevitable clashes that come from throwing a lot of different cultures together in a small space. The many benefits of diversity have been so frequently and thoroughly extolled that I need not rehearse the refrain here.
I mean, diversity blah blah blah, after a while you almost forget you're white.
But there has been a growing disquiet in recent years with diversity’s costs. About 10 years ago, public policy professor Robert Putnam began quietly pointing out that along with enhancing positive qualities like creativity, diversity also created conflict and reduced the level of social trust.

“In more diverse settings,” suggests Putnam, “Americans distrust not merely people who do not look like them, but even people who do.”

Utah’s willingness to help, and its ability to help, may arise from its homogeneity — a trait that won’t be exported to the diverse nation at large.
But that's okay -- soon gentrification will chase all the black people out of Petworth, and then D.C. can finally have better social services!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


"Jonathan Graham is a husband, father, and Lutheran layman studying classics and creative writing in Charleston, South Carolina." Couldn't you just eat him up? Anyway here's his story at The Federalist:
5 Reasons To Stop Calling Dads Of Unborn Babies A ‘Father To Be’
The human in utero is fully human, and when we casually dismiss this tiny, precious human, we dismiss and disrespect so much more of the human experience.
You sort of don't need to, but you want to, right? Let's:
...The peeve began to develop very early. When I announced to my co-workers that my wife is pregnant, they were happy for us. They asked about the due date and whether we were having a boy or a girl. And they congratulated me: “You’re going to be a dad!” they said, in the future tense. 
I soon became very sensitive to this phrase. But I gave my co-workers the benefit of the doubt. “Maybe I’m just being a grammar nerd,” I thought. “Certainly this won’t be something I hear that often.”
Thinking the problem might be you, Lutheran Layman -- that was clearly a mistake!
Unfortunately, I was wrong. Everywhere I turned people were quick to label my wife and I as parents-to-be. This is not just among radical pro-abortion activists who reduce pre-born humans to cell clusters, but even on major parenting websites...
Not just baby-killers, but Parents magazine! What has happened to this country! I'll have you know the proper expression is cum-donor, Sirrah. Good day!

He's got bullet-points, as if you haven't guessed, further explaining his objection to this noxious appellation. Here's the first:
1. It Doesn’t Meet the Definition of Father
Look up the word “father.” Merriam-Webster gives a good clear definition: “A man who has begotten a child.” That is about as clear as it gets. A father is a man with a child. That means any man who has impregnated a woman is a father...
Also, "3. It Disrespects the Parents of Miscarried Babies" ("if we continue to talk about parents of pre-born children as if they are not really parents yet, we deny the legitimate grief of parents who lose their children to miscarriage"). Give Lutheran Layman credit: Despite his views, he seems to anticipate continued contact with society, however brief:
I now actually look forward to people calling me a father-to-be, even though it’s also a pet peeve. People who are pro-life often don’t know how to talk to others about their convictions. It’s not easy to bring abortion up in casual conversation. It’s a taboo subject, and expressing your pro-life beliefs can result in losing friends, or worse. One teacher in Canada even lost his job because he expressed his pro-life views. 
Either that or because no one wanted to be around him anymore.
But here, far removed from the abortion conversation, when someone calls me a “father-to-be” I can ask what exactly he mean by it. I can question her position without ever mentioning abortion. I can ask what he thinks my child is, whether he is human, and all sorts of other questions, all without getting the other person’s guard up.
But not without getting her pepper-spray out.
So now I thank God every time someone calls me a “father-to-be.”
And he better, because soon God and his breeder-wife will be the only ones willing to listen to him anymore.

I'm said it before and I'll say it again: The Federalist isn't primarily a conservative website -- it's really a Blood and Soil cult.

Monday, March 27, 2017


...about the crash and burn of the American Health Care Act, which obliged the brethren to explain what went wrong without speaking ill of their own deformed and unpopular policies.

Nonetheless they had a go, and some refused to acknowledge defeat at all. At the Washington Examiner (picked up from a garbage website with many popups), Brian Brinker says, "while many are quick to label this as a Trump failure, I can't help but wonder if it's instead a moment of business savvy." How's he figure? Because polls show people don't actually want what Trump and Congress are selling -- which means a Trump loss is retroactively a stroke of Trump genius. See:
Ultimately, the repeal failure fits with Trump’s business style. Throughout his career Trump relied on contractors, in this case GOP members of Congress, to perform work. Trump has always been known for being tough on these contractors...
 (that is, he regularly stiffs them)
...and that appears to be the case in the currently unfolding scenario. Further, Trump has made it clear that when it comes to deals he is pragmatic and flexible. Congressional failures likely means that Trump will be shifting gears, with blame for the current failure falling on Congress rather than Trump.
In other words, Trump screwed Congress just like he screws everybody who trusts him! There, Trump voters -- don't you feel better?

If you can stand it, you can also go see WWC Whisperer Salena Zito explain why Pennsyltucky will never forsake The Leader: "their beliefs and their intellects — which they imagine [Frank] Rich and his ilk chuckling over while sipping chardonnay — are what pushed them away from an increasingly elitist Democratic Party in the first place," blah blah. (Steve M. from NMMNB notices that Zito has gone back to calling Westmoreland County "Democrat" even though they haven't voted for a Democrat for President in 20 years.) But maybe go read my column instead, which is at least as funny.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


A lot of people think Trump's down, with the messed-up AHCA vote Thursday. But I'm not so sure.

First of all, this failure is the GOP's, not his. Trump's connection with the Republicans is purely opportunistic. As I've been saying all along, the deal is that Trump signs anything Ryan and his Republican death cultists send him, and in return they look away while he loots and grifts. The GOP is holding up their end -- hell, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is basically a Russian safe house, Trump's exploiting his office like a motherfucker and so are his kids, but with few exceptions the Republican Congressional majorities are like huh what do you mean sorry I can't hear you.

Will Trump hold up his end? We can't tell because lately the Republicans have been tripping on their dicks -- which makes sense, because they haven't been this hard since 2005. In a normal executive-House-Senate GOP three-way, the White House would work with the leadership to craft and smooth passage of any big bill, the way Obama, Pelosi and Reid did with the ACA. Does anyone here think it's worked that way with Ryan and Trump? Given the barely coherent palaver Trump dispenses to the general public, I doubt he even speaks English when he talks to Ryan -- he probably just goes "rhubarb, rhubarb," like an old-fashioned stage crowd, and maybe masturbates. And Ryan, ever the apple-cheeked suck-up, probably nods politely and goes back to the committee rooms, where them Freedom Caucus boys are screaming AH WANNA 'MENDMENT MAKE BITCHES CARRY MAH SEED! and WHA I GOTTA PAY FOR IN-SURANCE I HAIN'T NEVER GONE BE SICK! No wonder the bill had to be delayed.

Be not deceived; if these monkeys can be brought into anything resembling regular order, they'll find a way to push something through the House. It may not have every horror that's been floated but it will still be pretty bad. And I wouldn't count on The World's Greatest Deliberative Body making it appreciably better -- for the Senate is where McCain takes the grandstand but McConnell takes the bandstand, and he keeps his baton by picking tunes the boys like to play. Now try and imagine Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton letting anything that isn't stuffed with dominionist lunacy come to a vote. What they add might be worse than what comes out of the House.

Then, assuming the stuff about the Senate Parliamentarian being fixed is bullshit (and since Mike Lee and Deroy Murdock are pushing it I assume it is), it becomes a question of whether the Republicans want to go berserker and pass extra-budgetary reforms with 51 votes. Again, these boys hate Black President's Big Law with a passion, they're not honorable or especially bright, and things could get out of hand. So don't relax -- as some wiseguy on Twitter said, this lull could just be the false relief that comes after the horror movie villain looks like he's dead the first time.

But notice I haven't mentioned Trump for a few grafs. Recently his usual alpha bellows on the subject suggest that he's willing to wash his hands of the thing -- which works great for him, since the rubes who voted for him are just as likely to blame the Republican pencil-necks for his failure as they've been willing to blame the Democratic pencil-necks (andblackpeopleandMexicans) for their own. It's like every terrible thing he's revealed to have done -- it just bonds them tighter to him. They're locked into the political version of a shame spiral -- except Trump feels no shame. Speaking of spirals, Trump's already fucking up Obamacare, so he can just wait for it to collapse and rule over the ruins.

Thus we remain, nearly alone among nations rich enough to have it, without universal health care. It's not so much an indictment of Trump, Congress, or even our politics as it is of our national character at the moment. America's like all those normal-seeming guys you read about in newspaper crime stories who take their savings and hire a hit man to kill their wife or boss or father-in-law. They think if they can just get this one insane, immoral thing done, everything will work out great. But they can't do it themselves so they need to hire this insane, immoral guy. And things always go wrong because the hit man winds up blackmailing them or trying to kill them or kidnapping a member of their family. These guys always seem to assume, against all evidence and experience, that for some reason the hit man won't turn on them. That's us now. We're a nation of Jerry Lundegaards.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


Tom Knighton at PJ Media:
Remember when liberals would take issue with a business refusing service to a customer because the action conflicted with the owner's personal beliefs? How dare a Christian refuse to take part in a gay marriage ceremony! 
Of course, it's all good when it's a bar in the West Village refusing to do business with someone wearing a Donald Trump "Make America Great Again" hat:  
Inserted here is an excerpt from a New York Post story about Hat Guy, one Greg Piatek, allegedly getting thrown out of the bar after a few rounds ("The ‘flustered’ bartender got them a second round but allegedly ‘slammed the drinks down'"). It includes a picture of Piatek; his lawyer claims this was "his client's 'saddest hour,'" but looking at the guy I'm guessing it's not even in the top ten.
This should be an interesting test for the Left. 
If you believe that no one should be allowed to refuse a customer because of the management's beliefs, then it's time to put up or shut up. If a Christian baker can't pass on a wedding cake for a gay marriage, then this bar can't refuse to serve someone because of a hat indicating support for a presidential candidate. Who won, by the way...
We don't need a Constitutional expert to solve this one. The guy in the hat wasn't being thrown out for his race, creed, religious beliefs, or even sexual preference. He was being thrown out because the bartender decided he was an asshole.

And one of the primary tenets of Common Law is: If the bartender thinks you're an asshole, you hit the bricks.

One of the other primary tenets, borne out by the story: The bartender is always right.

UPDATE. I see the Post story was written by the same stunt reporter who went around New York wearing a MAGA hat and pretty much begged to be shit on. I guess they're working on a little genre to inflame the sensibilities of red-state rubes: "Them gawdamn New Yorkers is prejudice agin' us! Wonder why thet Me-la-ni-a Trump wants ta live there so bad. I bet she'd be a lot more comfortable-like here in Skunk Holler. Might could go up there an' git her, have her stay with Cousin Clem, he been needin' a female to clean up and whatnot."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I don't have to tell you people who The Real VictimsTM  are in any given situation -- they're always (counterintuitive as it may seem!) on the side with the most power.

Owen Strachan of The Federalist starts out telling us the alt-right is very bad ("childish and vicious... ethnocentrism, outright racism, misogyny... we should offer condemnation in no uncertain terms"), but quickly (by the third graf -- I feel like Carol Kane washing Randy Quaid's cock in The Last Detail, that's how quick!) gets here:
I do wonder, however, if the media has missed at least one true thing regarding the “alt-right.” The movement (if we can call it that) may often prove inchoate and even inarticulate, but behind the memes and coded language, there seems to be a massed sentiment. It is this: men feel left behind.
Poor behind-left men! Strachan gets to the inevitable next stage quickly, too -- the one where you learn that these lost Nazi-boys, who "did nothing to choose their biological manliness, but are instructed to attend sensitivity training by virtue of it," are cruelly oppressed by feminazi society, who won't indulge their "glory hunger" (?). And so the alt-right boys, for all their vicious bigotry, aren't really bad after all -- they're depraved on account of they're deprived of their rightful good jobs and sucked dicks!
It is easy, and right, to identify where aspects of the alt-right are plainly misogynistic. But tying an entire people group to its worst excesses allows for the full-scale dismissal of a diverse array of concerns and experiences. This has happened with Donald Trump’s voters, for example; according to many journalists, they’re all either racist or angry about the loss of the halcyon days. The media executes the same lazy move with the angry young men of the alt-right: they’re idiotic little boys. We have nothing to hear from them, nothing to learn, nothing to consider.
Listen to the neo-Nazis -- they have something to say, too! How can you be so arrogant as to turn away when they give you the Hitler salute, or deface your synagogue? We have much to learn from them!

It figures that he wedged Trump in there. I predict "this is why I'm fluffing the alt-right" will be the new "this is why Trump won."

Monday, March 20, 2017


...about the Trump budget, the controversy over Meals on Wheels funding, and how conservatives have spun it into a media rather than a budget story. It's frustrating to see goodhearted liberals like Kevin Drum bending over backwards to be not only fair but also generous to conservatives, saying basically that Mick Mulvaney couldn't have meant the bad thing he seemed to say because "if you were writing a satire designed to show that Republicans were all heartless bastards, you still wouldn't invent something like that" -- as if we haven't been living in an immersive environmental satire of conservative governance for months. (That conservatives never return the favor is too obvious and expected to be mentioned.)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

JIMMY BRESLIN, 1930-2017.

Another notable passing. If you're the sort of person who reads alicublog you probably know what a terrific, fluent writer Jimmy Breslin was, and about his various journalistic coups such as interviewing the Kennedy gravedigger and the cops who brought John Lennon to the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital. All I have to add is in addition to being a writer-writer, he was a newsman from the days when the difference between a reporter and a columnist barely existed, and did the job like it was important, at all hours and sometimes under extreme duress, as when he returned from being beaten and robbed at the Crown Heights riots to file a story. If journalism seems like a drag and a whore now, it certainly isn't any of his doing. He was the real thing.

Also, years ago I wrote a little something about hearing him read from one of his books and asking him a question. Here's a bit of it:
There was something I had long wanted to ask Breslin: How do you get cops to talk to you? I never have any luck with them. 
Breslin squinted. "Ask 'em what's doin'. Why wouldn't they want to talk to you? A nice white fella from Long Island. What'dya say to them?" 
"Um, 'I'd like to ask you a few questions.'" 
Breslin looked disgusted. "Don't come on like a district attorney! That'll make 'em nervous. It makes me nervous. Who d'ya write for?" 
Breslin inclined his head. "You against cops?" 
He shrugged. "'What's doin'?'"
Brush with greatness, that. And still good advice.

CHUCK BERRY, 1926-2017.

Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice. 

I remember when I was a dumbass college kid and he had that stupid hit, "My Ding-a-Ling," and I was confused by that into thinking he was just some old duffer who'd had a few hits and was resurfacing to grab one more -- like Ricky Nelson with "Garden Party."

Well, I shouldn't have slept on Ricky, and I damn sure should have known better about Chuck. It took me playing music myself to realize that the thing called rock 'n' roll pretty much came directly from him. Sure, in the historical traces there were the blues masters when they got wild and there was Ike Turner's "Rocket '88," but that was the primordial ooze, something that just bubbled up; no one knew how to make a regular business out of it, so it wasn't rock 'n' roll. (One way or another, rock 'n' roll is an assembly line. That's why it started dying when the factories started closing down.)

That leaves us with Little Richard and Chuck Berry and mmmmaybe Bo Diddley. These three were serious in their manufacture, but while Bo had the bottom end and Richard could wail, Chuck Berry took the insistence of the one and the exuberance of the other, distilled and bottled them together, and sent it down the line still fizzing like Coca-Cola. He'd have been really rich if he were white, but as it was his sound made a lot of money.

Those records -- "Maybellene," "Johnny B. Goode," "Memphis," "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man," et alia -- have everything; it makes sense that NASA sent "Johnny B. Goode" into space because, with the possible exception of "The Battle Hymn of The Republic," that's the song you could best reconstruct America from. It has the spirit, the swagger, and even patriotism, because who's Johnny B. Goode really but the rock 'n' roll John Henry? Even better, there's no admission anything will make him ever lay down his hammer -- which makes the song double American.

(It's not a serious song, but come on -- America can be grim or mean, but whoever thought it was serious? I love Lou Reed, but he was a New Yorker and thus at least half European; Chuck Berry was from St. Louis and would never have lived in a Lower East Side cold-water flat if he had a choice.)

You can't leave out his guitar, which was more many of us the blueprint: hammer-ons, double-stops, and syncopation; leave the noodley leads to wankers. It's like the blues got amnesia and a handjob -- fun, fun, fun (and for white people, money, money, money).

For me, the signature is "School Days." I could listen to it all day. It's basically about work and getting off work -- except the work is schoolwork so it isn't that serious; it's about getting by, finding a seat, playing off the teacher -- school and work, that is, as seen by an enlightened soul who doesn't care if some asshole thinks he's shiftless because he's something good in his guitar case. And the moment when school lets out -- ah, that's a benediction that anyone who wants shut of the teacher or the boss or the spouse or the world longs and loves to hear: "Close up your books, get out of your seat/Down the halls and into the street." It's crypts breaking open and souls flying to heaven, but better, because it's undraped of the maudlin religious panoply, and you can really believe it, because it happens every working day. If for nothing else we should remember him for that; in fact, maybe inventing rock 'n' roll isn't even the superior achievement.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


You may have heard that The Leader likes his steak overpriced, overcooked, and with ketchup, and that new-breed wingnuts are showing their allegiance to Trump by praising this as a real man's way to eat steak. Matt Bors did a funny strip about this at The Nib; in one panel a guy in a MAGA hat gnaws charred ketchup steaks and tells a bemused liberal:
We are owning libs so hard with our steak eating. Hashtag #welldone. Are you crying? Do you need a safe space?
Today Matthew Continetti decided to play this character at National Review, in a column called "Freedom Is Eating Steak Well Done with Ketchup." He claims "the press has fixated on the steak and its accompaniment," and defends the President's choice of meat-ruination from "snobbish and self-congratulatory" food critics thus:
“Trump eats $50 steak with ketchup, foodies aghast,” reports It is hard to read stories like these without coming to the conclusion that so much of our elite’s abhorrence of Trump is a matter of aesthetics, of his not fitting in, of his stubborn devotion to practices and ideas deemed retrograde by opinion leaders but that still appeal to, oh, about half the country. As I read these stories I want nothing more than to run to the nearest steakhouse, order the filet well done, and dunk the bites in a raft of condiments, from ketchup to Tabasco to relish to mustard. Why not? It’s still a free country. Just so long as you can find a way out of the bubble.
Later in a friend's tweet, Continetti showed his devotion to the cause:

Are you crying? Do you need a safe space?

Someone tell them the really patriotic thing to eat is rat poison.

Friday, March 17, 2017


The kids are alright.

• Though Salena Zito is alicublog's favorite White Working Class Whisperer, we don't sleep on J.D. Vance, the Hillbilly Elegy guy who, though he went to Yale and became a rich investment capital executive and a National Review writer, still feels for his kinfolk back in Skunk Holler (actually, according to his official bio he "grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky" -- a WWC twofer!) and really understands why they went for Trump (which, of course, is very different from supporting Trump himself, though he never gets around to saying what the difference is). The other day Vance told his many rustic fans (at least those who read the New York Times) that he was "moving home" with the noble goal of "founding an organization to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic." Thus he will do his bit to reverse the "brain drain" that Charles Murray worries about, and bring jobs and purpose to Rust Belt Middletown and --

Hang on -- you say he's not moving to Middletown? He's moving to Columbus? Or, as the hipsterrific ads call it, Cbus?

Columbus Monthly explains:
Though Cincinnati is closer to his hometown, Vance chose Columbus for its more convenient airport, central location and availability of promising job opportunities for his wife, Usha, a lawyer and fellow Yale Law School graduate. Speaking before an event hosted for him at Miranova by Columbus power couple Larry and Donna James, Vance, an Ohio State graduate, said he and his wife plan to move to German Village with their two dogs, Pippin and Casper.
Somehow I dount Pippin and Casper are coonhounds.

• Back in 2009, The Editors of National Review blasted the DNC for referring to obstreperous attendees of Obamacare Town Brawls as a "mob," and Democratic officials for avoiding such events:
The DNC’s ad, “Enough of the Mob,” abominates those Americans who show up to address their congressmen and to exercise their constitutional rights to speak freely, to assemble, and to petition their government for redress of grievances. You know, that old pre-hope-and-change, hopelessly retro, pre-messianic democratic stuff...

The most mockery-inviting aspect of all this is that Obamacare-supporting Democrats are now ducking constituent meetings back in their home districts, afraid to face questions from the people they are paid to represent. Given the Obama team’s contempt for these people, and its utterly dismissive attitude toward their concerns, is it any wonder “the mob” doesn’t want Obama in charge of their health care? Obamacare will constitute an injury to Americans’ well-being — and the president now adds insult to it.
Today, with the disastrous Trumpcare bill being muscled through Congress, and Republicans ducking their own Town Brawls, The Editors haven't got the nerve, so they've hauled in some poor lady from Acculturated, rightwingdom's single-A farm team. Her headline:
Stop Trolling Politicians at Town-Hall Meetings
There follow several grafs from a History of Town Halls term paper, then:
This is the new political coliseum, and while there aren’t lions, chariots, and sparring with swords, there is the aura of the melee rather than deliberative debate...

The best town halls will always be places to gather and debate, sometimes heatedly. But if this crucial democratic tradition is to survive our fractured age, we should embrace civility during town-hall meetings, and save the angry trolling for Twitter.
NR performs its duh diligence, the Acculturated lady gets a top-drawer writing credit, and no normal people ever see the column. Everybody wins!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Longtime readers will understand that my real beef with Jonah Goldberg is not so much ideological as aesthetic. I mock him not mainly because his ideas are terrible (though they are -- I propose the Liberal Fascism monument show Goldberg tumbling bucket-footed down Spongebob's Stairs of Learning as he tries to draw a Hitler mustache on FDR) but because he writes shit like this:

But let us be fair: Deks, as these are called in the biz, are sometimes composed by editors rather than authors and, though I can't imagine Goldberg's ego would abide an editor, it's possible they convinced him to let an intern write his deks, and that intern, perhaps tired of doing hourly Cheetos runs and getting nothing in return from Goldberg but bon mots like "Wanna big tip? Then rub it!" decided to fuck with him. So let us examine Goldberg's lede:
Dystopia is in the air these days. George Orwell’s 1984 is selling like hotcakes — if hotcakes still sold well in this low-carb world.
Come back! I know that gag makes Erma Bombeck look like Noel Coward, but let's give the man a chance.
Is the president to blame?

I think historians, no doubt working from their subterranean monasteries, bunkered from the radioactive wasteland above, will note that dystopianism, apocalypticism, and other forms of existential paranoia actually predate the Trump presidency.
Okay, I think he got the crap poeticism out of his system; I promise if he does Latinate alliteration we'll skip down.
It’s a fever that passes from one subset of the population to another and occasionally blows up into a full-scale pandemic. We all carry the infection in us, sometimes slow-simmering, sometimes in remission, and sometimes in extremis.
[vomits] OK, let's skip down.
...Apathy is the practical opposite of fear.
Uh --
Given that tyranny, going by the historical and evolutionary record, is the natural state of humankind, the greatest bulwark against it is a highly cultivated, deeply informed but nonetheless instinctive fear.
Edmund Burke never actually uttered the most famous quote attributed to him — “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” — though that is a useful summation of his views. And it’s certainly true. 
 Guh --
Apathy is the grease that makes slippery slopes so treacherous.
The old saw still cuts: This is the stupidest thing ever written until Goldberg writes something else.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Iowa's Steve King has gotten so obnoxiously and overtly racist -- defending his "we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies" tweet by raving about "our stock," predicting race war, and recommending The Camp of the Saints -- that even conservatives have started to inch away from him.

Wait, did I say "inch"? I mean millimeter. I mean micromillimeter. Because in today's conservative movement no one's really racist, at least not in the upper tier -- they're merely Racist With an Explantion.

At The Federalist, David Harsanyi tut-tuts King's "confused and contradictory statements." I don't see any evidence King is confused about nor inconsistent in his racism at all, but Harsanyi detects a cleavage: While King's wrong to talk about "culture as blood," says Harsanyi, he's right about the "clash of cultures" with Islam. Harsanyi, you see, is also down with holy war against the Musselmen (see here, there, and everywhere).

But the real villains in this affair -- the ones Harsanyi devotes most of his column to criticizing -- are liberals:
So King deserves the condemnation he’s been getting for making the immigration debate about people rather than their ideas. Yet most coverage of congressman’s statement also seems to take offense at his defense of “Western civilization.” Once it was merely in poor form to claim our system was better. Now, evidently, it’s racist.
He offers as his sole, shoddy proof a tweet by Rep. Judy Chu that does not in any apparent way denounce Western Civ but says this: "Steve King is wrong: Civilization is threatened by racism & xenophobia that divide us & encourage violence. I condemn hate & welcome all." To you this may seem admirable if anodyne, but Harsanyi doesn't go for Chu's hint that hatred of The Other might be uncool:
Fact is, the modern Left debates immigration using the very same ethnocentric and racial ideas as King, but for entirely different reasons.
Harsanyi loved when Gillespie told Tibbs "Man, you're just like the rest of us, ain't ya?" in In The Heat of the Night, and still thinks it's a winner.
While one side adopts it for exclusionary purposes, the other uses it as a cudgel of relativism.
The cudgel of relativism double-slaps you with one-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand action!
These days, there is precious little difference between ideas and identity on the Left. So we are asked to treat Islam as a racial or ethnic designation rather than a philosophical/religious/ideological one.
See, The Left made Muslims into a race just so they could beat up innocent guys like Steve King! Wait, what were we talking about again?

At National Review Jonathan S. Tobin says what's "dangerous" about King's palaver is that it "undermines American exceptionalism." No, really. The lede is killer:
What is at stake in the long-running battle over illegal immigration? The answer from the overwhelming majority of Americans who worry about it is “the defense of the rule of law.”
I wonder what poll he got that from. Pollster: "Why do you oppose illegal immigration? Pick one. A., It --" Lutiebelle C. Festus: "GODDAMN MESSICANS! I mean, defense of the rule of law!"

Tobin goes on about how it's okay for Geert Wilders to worry about "about how a national identity rooted in a homogeneous ethnic and religious culture can accommodate newcomers" and "whether those who don’t share a common ethnicity and who practice a different faith will transform the nation into a place that isn’t Dutch" -- maybe it sounds racist, but he's in Europe, which is crawling with those "no-go zones" you read about on Breitbart. But here in America, says Tobin, we don't have that problem, even though "The Left is attempting to portray as xenophobic President Trump’s temporary travel ban from six countries that are terrorist hotbeds" -- boy, that The Left is always trying to make us look racist just because we keep trying to keep Muslims out!

 Tobin goes further than Harsanyi, even admitting that
the shift toward a less-white America is already baked into the country’s demographic cake. If conservatives wish to continue governing in the future, they must reject talk about “other people’s babies” and promote their ideas with enough confidence that Hispanics and other minorities will eventually embrace them.
Tobin must have been thinking, "Who cares? By then I'll be dead!" But he really distinguishes himself in the closing:
Modern American conservatism was founded by the willingness of some to “stand athwart history yelling stop,” but William F. Buckley and his colleagues were not seeking to yell stop to Americans who were not white.
Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha no really, he said that.

What these guys are doing is the for-real version of something they're always accusing their enemies of doing: By showing just a pretense of toleration, they're distinguishing themselves against the loud-'n'-proud racism of their comrades (e.g. "As media-spooked GOP piles on, Rep. Steve King stands by his remark") -- in other words, they're virtue signaling.

UPDATE. I have far less reason to doubt the sincerity of Nick Gillespie's anti-racism, but I had to laugh when I read him bragging on his ancestors' immigrant roots:
Mostly, they worked hard as hell and provided for their children under difficult circumstances (prejudice, economic depression, war). The first job my grandfather Nicola Guida had in the promised land of America was chiseling rock with a hammer and sledge somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania (he and his fellow workers were never told exactly where they were to make it harder to run away). He would be so tired that he would piss and shit himself as he slept at night, unable to get up to use the facilities.
Wow, sounds like a libertarian dream! Maybe that's why Gillespie endorses these conditions for today's workers -- nostalgia!

Monday, March 13, 2017


...about the disastrous debut of the American Health Care Act. It would be more encouraging to see the brethren admit what a dog this thing was if I didn't know any tweak that comes down the pike will be declared the master stroke that fixes everything. Maybe in addition to stripping lottery winners of their Medicaid they'll also test beneficiaries' DNA for evidence that they've recently eaten a T-bone steak.

UPDATE. The CBO report is out and, while most human beings are horrified that it predicts 24 million people losing coverage as a result of Trumpcare, National Review's Dan McLaughlin scoffs that CBO can't be relied on, because they said with Obamacare 201 million Americans would have private insurance, while in reality only 177 million do. Never mind that, between public and private insurance, the uninsured rate dropped to new lows -- you can't expect a conservative to applaud pauper-moochers getting a break. And anyway it doesn't matter because
The projections of who will and won’t be insured don’t actually mean anything. But the projections of deficit reduction mean a lot, whether or not they are accurate – because they give the bill the procedural green light to go forward.

And that is how the game is played in Washington.
In other words: we know just as well as you do that this is bullshit, but we're going to get away with it so fuck off and die.