The Whisper Network, Continued

In the wake of both John Conyers and Al Franken being forced to resign from Congress over their “inappropriate sexual behavior”, there does indeed seem to be a backlash against the #metoo anti-harassment movement, although not from the Right. Dahlia Lithwick in Slate says,  “Is this the principled solution? By every metric I can think of, it’s correct. But it’s also wrong. It’s wrong because we no longer inhabit a closed ethical system, in which morality and norm preservation are their own rewards. We live in a broken and corroded system in which unilateral disarmament is going to destroy the very things we want to preserve. ”

It’s often pointed out that Franken’s main accuser, Leann Tweeden is a conservative Fox (Sports) alumna and allegedly an associate of Trump family members. Celebrity Tom Arnold accused her of being coached by a “Roger Stone pal” at her radio station. And some Democrats have gone much further in bemoaning their party’s policy toward one of their own. In the Washington Post, feminist author Kate Harding said “I don’t believe (that Franken) resigning from his position is the only possible consequence, or the one that’s best for American women.” But she elaborates: “When you combine these things — an awareness that the Democratic Party is no more or less than best of two, and an understanding that men in power frequently exploit women — it becomes difficult to believe that Franken is the only sitting Democrat with a history of harassment, abuse or assault… Isn’t that hypocritical? I hear you asking, Because Republicans won’t do the right thing, we shouldn’t, either? But if the short-term ‘right thing’ leads to long-term political catastrophe for American women, I think we need to reconsider our definition of the right thing.”

So Democrats should go back to saying “it’s okay when it’s our guy?” That would indeed solve the double standard problem. If both parties are going to roast the enemy for the same thing that they forgive on their side, there’s one standard that is being applied equally.

The problem is that the Democratic liberal base won’t go for it anymore. More specifically, the women in the Democratic hierarchy won’t go for it anymore. It was Democratic women Senators who led the demand that Franken resign. Recall that whatever one thinks of Donald Trump, this whole #metoo thing erupted after the first allegations came out concerning Harvey Weinstein. Snap quiz, who was a bigger fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, Harvey Weinstein or Charles Koch? It’s Franken who’s expected to fall on his sword for the good of the Party, not the feminist contingent of the Party that’s expected to put up with him for the sake of not letting Republicans “get” one.

What all this proves to me is that liberals need to find a happy medium between retroactively crucifying Al Franken – who was never accused of adultery, let alone rape – for sleazy behavior that occurred before he ever ran for office, versus “it’s not perjury if it was over a blowjob, and even if it was, it’s just a Republican witch hunt.” Maybe we should acknowledge that if “believe the women” is not as bad an extreme as “always believe the accused”, it is still an extreme. Maybe rather than uncritically dismissing or believing the accuser, we should take the accuser seriously, seriously enough to give the claims proper investigation.

Because even in the olden days, it was sometimes more likely that allegations of sexual misbehavior from a politician would be taken seriously, and a politician’s career could be destroyed over allegations that were both less substantial and more substantial than the charges against Franken. In 1988, Democrat Gary Hart was preparing a run for the presidency until the press started covering his relationship with a young woman named Donna Rice, a relationship that both Rice and Hart have maintained to this day was not sexual. Then after the 1992 campaign, Republican Senator Bob Packwood was shadowed by continuing allegations of sexual assault, allegations which intensified after the Senate Ethics Committee requested his diary and found out that he had altered the diary passages. Eventually Packwood resigned in 1995.  Incidentally, the Wikipedia article on this points out that the head of the Committee at the time was Senator Mitch McConnell, who had said afterward in regard to President Clinton’s impeachment: “As most of you will recall, the Senate faced a similar choice just a few short years ago. It was one of our own who had clearly crossed the line. It was one of our own who had engaged in sexual misconduct and obstruction of justice… During the Packwood debate, we made the tough choice. And, I have to say, that decision was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my career in public service. To recommend expelling from the United States Senate a colleague, a member of my own party, and most importantly, a friend with whom I had served in the Senate for over a decade. We sent a clear message to the nation that no man is above the law.”

What caused the standard to change all of a sudden?

What happened was that a certain politician in the duopoly decided that winning was more important than shame. Packwood and Hart could be shamed out of the system. Bill Clinton could not. And while I’m sure Hillary Clinton didn’t plan on things turning out this way, the fact that she was First Enabler in 1998 meant that in 2016 she was the only person in either major party who was not in position to take on Donald Trump over his history of sexism. It’s not as though she didn’t get some good licks in, especially with invoking Alicia Machado in a debate, but the fact that Trump got as many white female voters as he did indicated that Clinton had a critical problem with her core audience.

Democratic ambivalence on this issue is precisely because Republicans have embraced Bill Clinton’s approach more thoroughly than they have. Not only that, this allowed Trump to disarm the whole premise of enforcing moral standards. He has also shown right-wingers the path to counter left-wing virtue signaling: Don’t let them shame you. Don’t let them crybully you. Don’t apologize for what you are. The problem occurs when what you are is not just objectively evil but belligerently stupid.

The other day, (Dec. 6) Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic wrote a piece called “Embracing Depravity,” which is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a pretty good analysis of where the Republican groupthink is now. It explains why the “conservative” movement, in all its contradictions, has one consistent factor: what Friedersdorf calls ressentiment.

“Culture-war conflict now dominates their political identity.

“And to watch them embrace the label ‘deplorable’ even as they elevate a man like (Roy) Moore is to suspect (Julian) Sanchez was right in seeing ressentiment as ‘a resignation to impotence on the cultural front where the real conflict lies. It effectively says: We cede to the bogeyman cultural elites the power of stereotypical definition, so becoming the stereotype more fully and grotesquely is our only means of empowerment.”

This is why it doesn’t do good to whine that it’s not fair that Democrats are being held to a standard that Republicans don’t respect. When you’re a Democrat, you find excuses for why you can’t win elections. It’s what you do. But more importantly, liberals, you are never going to be more punk rock than the Republicans. You are never going to be more transgressive. You are always going to be under the self-imposed double standard, if only because you have any standards at all. Because unlike Republicans, who have discarded all standards except winning, you are still under the delusion that you have morals. That your political calculus is based on a higher standard. That you’re here to fight for something.

So here’s a radical Communist idea, liberals: Why not FIGHT for something?

If the game of moral superiority is, if not a wash, ultimately meaningless in winning elections, if it ultimately comes down to voter turnout, and if Republican tax “reform” is doing more to cement their Snidely Whiplash image than anything leftists could imagine, then Democrats ought to spend this next year concentrating on the very “flyover” counties that won Trump the election in 2016, the very places that will be hardest hit by Republican policy, and convince those voters that their party is able to help them out. But that would require having both a message and a plan.

…Naahh, that’s too hard, isn’t it?

We Are So Screwed

When the Republican Senate passed its tax “reform” bill just after midnight on December 2, journalist Kurt Eichenwald sent this tweet: “America died tonight. Economic suicide adopted to feed the insatiable greed of donors, who have been refusing to dole out $ to GOP until they got their tax cuts. Voters fooled by propaganda and tribal hatred. Millenials: move away if you can. USA is over. We killed it.”

I wouldn’t be quite THAT pessimistic, but we are seriously running out of options, given that one ruling party (the Democrats) are not currently in power and doesn’t have any ideas for how to turn things around if they were, while the current majority (Republicans) are not merely mistaken but outright destructive.

The actual tax reform bill as passed by the Senate still included several points amended on the copies with markers. This is going to come back and bite Republicans in the ass when they find out the (“) symbol means inches and not feet.

What we have is being passed off by liberals as “economic libertarianism.” Which is BS. Of course I’m going to say that because I’m a Libertarian. But assume that economic libertarianism is based on the axiom “taxation is theft.” (Not like liberals have given a better definition of it.) You can say that that attitude is blinkered and just plain wrong. But even taking it at face value, it would mean that we should tax as few people as possible, and as little as possible. What this bill is is a scheme to have as few people as possible pay as little as possible while in many areas, we are maintaining or even expanding government spending on the backs of the other income levels by removing the exemptions and services that will be given to the upper income levels. In other words, it would be a tax increase on many of us. Hardly libertarian.

The thing that neither the Left or the Right are willing to admit is that if you already have wealth and power, you don’t need the government to give you more. That is not why a (classically) liberal democratic republic exists. In fact, the Founders created this country to rebel against the previous paradigm where a government was set up specifically to take the resources of the majority and use them solely for the benefit of the hereditary elite. This idea may stick in the craw of America’s “conservatives”, but then the idea that “all men are created equal” offended a lot of people, too.

But if it’s easy for liberals to say that libertarianism (whether of the Republican or Libertarian Party variety) is just a giveaway to the rich, and if the rest of the country more or less accepts that, that’s because the primary promotion of an economically libertarian or “fiscally conservative” platform is that of Paul Ryan and his ilk. And the result does more to promote socialism than anything the Left could come up with on their own merits.

What’s really sad is that the reason for pushing so hard on a bill that practically nobody wants is that the Republicans care more about their wealthy donor class than voters (given how much they gin the election system to keep safe seats, and how little Republicans care about what their own party does to them). There’s just one problem. The “fiscally conservative” Republicans were so eager to stick it to blue states with their plan that they alienated wealthy donors in those states, since the tax “reform” eliminates a lot of the previous deductions that were given to residents of high-tax states like New York, where a lot the richest Republicans live. So according to the Washington Examiner: “I think checkbooks stay closed until they see how it plays out,” said Eric R. Levine, a Manhattan attorney and Republican donor who bundled contributions for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2016. “I’m not even trying to raise money in the fourth quarter.” Because donors “foresee higher personal taxes under a plan that axes deductions for state and local taxes without offering what they consider compensatory reductions in marginal income rates, even with the repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax that hits many upper-middle-class Americans. They resent that the bill excludes their white-collar service professions — think law, finance, and consulting — from the bill’s lower small-business rate, even as it shrinks the corporate levy to 20 percent from 35 percent. ”

Oh, and it gets even gooder. Just today (Dec. 4) had an article from Eric Levitz clarifying just one case of how Republican hastiness on the tax scam is already biting them in the ass. In order to get all the cuts the Senate bill needed while still adding only so much (just $1.5 trillion) to the deficit, McConnell had to scramble for other means of making up revenue. At present, the country has a corporate tax of 35 percent- which is subject to modification by various deductions, down to a minimum tax of 20 percent. The alternative minimum tax was supposed to have been removed in the first Senate bill, but in order to help make up the gap, they put it back in as part of the last round of wheeler-dealing. However, they forgot to lower the absolute minimum below 20% – which is where the base corporate tax rate is in the new bill. This makes all the various deductions and investments hitherto used to lower corporate taxes useless. Levitz quotes a Wall Street Journal article (paywall) in which the head of Murray Energy Corp spoke: ““What the Senate did, in their befuddled mess, is drove me out of business and then bragged about the fact that they got some tax reform passed,” Mr. Murray said in an interview Sunday. “This is not job creation. This is not stimulating income. This is driving a whole sector of our community into nonexistence.” Murray Energy, by the way, is a coal company.

All of which means that, given that Big Money is all that Republicans have going for them, dissension in the ranks makes it that much harder for Republicans to maintain the support they need going into the 2018 midterms. Midterms usually are a hostile environment for the ruling party, but Republicans made things that much worse for themselves with their legislation this year. Of course they felt the need to pass all the things on their agenda now that they finally had the opportunity to do so. Because they finally had a Republican president in the White House who would sign their dream bills and help them make America great again.

Yeah, about that.

On Friday December 1, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn – who had already left his joint defense agreement with Donald Trump’s legal team – pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI in regard to communications made with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration. And as predicted, later in the day it was stated that Flynn was in agreement to testify about his knowledge of communications between “senior administration officials” on this matter, the current rumor being that the main “senior official” being implicated was Trump’s son-in-law and Schmuck Without Portfolio Jared Kushner.

And in response, on Saturday December 3, Trump tweeted:

I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

9:14 AM – 2 Dec 2017

Raising, among other questions, how did he know Flynn had lied to the FBI at that time?

To paraphrase Dr. King’s Bible quote, the arc of the moral universe is long, but Trump won’t shut his fucking mouth.

But later that day, the Trump team announced that Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, was the one who drafted the tweet.  Oh, so that wasn’t Trump that posted that incriminating tweet, now that he realizes what he did. It was his lawyer. His PROFESSIONAL LAWYER. Who posted something that would tie Trump to the Flynn case. In Trump’s name.

Well, I guess that completely exonerates Trump. I mean, if this is what the White House sends out after consulting with a lawyer, imagine what Trump would have revealed if he’d just shot his mouth off.

(Dowd, by the way, was noted in Wikipedia as a Trump staffer who forwarded an email from a conspiracy theorist to conservative media saying that Black Lives Matter was infiltrated by terrorists and that there was no difference between George Washington and Robert E. Lee.)

I sincerely doubt that Trump’s lawyer posted that tweet. If only because a real lawyer, when asked to vet that statement, would respond by yanking Trump’s smartphone out of his hand, throwing it against the wall and then stomping it to a million bits while Trump watched, as a professional opinion on why that statement should not be made on Twitter.

In any case, this would beg the question, “just how fucking stupid do you have to be to believe this slimy criminal?” but this is the Republican Party we’re dealing with. Ultimately I have to attribute Trump’s motive in making that post to one of two thoughts:

“I can admit to anything because Paul ‘Paulie Numbnuts’ Ryan and Mitch ‘the Bitch’ McConnell will always be there to protect me”


“Somebody stop me. Somebody please stop me.”

Unfortunately it’s not that simple. A lot of Republicans might be willing to toss Trump to get Vice President Pence to take over, since he’s a more sincerely conservative Republican than Trump and would be less likely to incriminate himself on Twitter. However it may already be too late. See, the stated reason that Trump fired Flynn was because Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence (who was running the pre-inaugural transition) about contacts with Russia. If Flynn lied to Congress about this, and this lie was the same thing he told Pence (according to big-mouth Trump) then if Trump knew it was a lie at the time and this incriminates him it is hard to see how it doesn’t incriminate Mike Pence. Thus, any charge that is substantial enough to incriminate Trump could also incriminate Pence for the same reason. If the President is removed from office and the Vice President is also not able to serve, the law states that succession falls to the Speaker of the House.

Which means that the acting president would be Paul Ryan. AKA “Paulie Numbnuts.”

Unless of course Mueller is allowed to drag this thing out past the point of the 2018 midterms, and in the perhaps 50-50 chance that Democrats can actually capitalize on Republicans’ unpopularity, then the third in line after Pence would most likely be House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

You know, the liberal feminist who at first defended John Conyers against sexual harassment charges and called him an icon of Congress.

Nancy “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it” Pelosi.

We really are screwed, aren’t we?

The Whisper Network

“I wish to argue that none of you possibly have enough evidence to jump to this conclusion, but experience has taught me that only guarantees it to be the case.”

-Vaarsuvius, Order of the Stick #1106

I had almost thought the issue of powerful men getting taken down by a history of sexual harassment was starting to lose currency. But last week the big news was that Today show lead anchor Matt Lauer was “suddenly” fired after NBC News recieved a detailed complaint, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack saying “While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.” As it turned out, both Variety and the New York Times had been investigating an extensive history of misbehavior on Lauer’s part.  Less publicized that week was the news that hip-hop mogul and producer Russell Simmons was stepping down from his companies after he was accused of sexual assault.

This phenomenon is in fact so widespread and happening so fast that a lot of observers are worried about it. For one thing, the idea that we should believe all women who accuse men of abuse is getting challenged. Professional feminist Lena Dunham defended a writer from her show Girls after he was accused of rape by actress Aurora Perrineau, saying he was one of the just “3% of assault cases that are misrepresented every year.” More relevant to politics, Minnesota Democratic Senator Al Franken was accused of groping one woman on a USO tour, and then another. Now it’s up to six. Not only that, veteran Congressman John Conyers (D.-Michigan) was accused of a long history of improper sexual behavior. Yet another Congressman, Ruben Kihuen (D.-Nevada) was just accused of repeated sexual advances and improper touching by an aide.  But it wasn’t until fairly recently that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called upon Conyers to resign. (Perhaps for that reason, she was a lot quicker to go after Kihuen.)

So what? The story now is, we “believe all women” unless the accused is a friend of ours? Or if it’s politically inconvenient?

To their credit, a lot of liberals are saying politics be damned, such men need to be out of Congress, even if they’re Democrats. But it’s not that simple. Conyers’ seat (in the Detroit area) is safe, and in any case he’s very old and may need to retire anyway. However, if Kihuen resigns, the Governor of Nevada (who would appoint his replacement) is a Republican. And Franken has been a serious asset to the Democrats in the Senate, and even if Minnesota’s Democratic governor replaced him, that party needs all the seats it can get.

Not that Republicans are any more pure. As more documented stories of Roy Moore’s predilection for younger girls came up in Alabama, that just increased the desire of Alabama Republicans to get him elected Senator. But that’s what they are. All that matters to them is winning. “Conservatives” would vote for Bill Clinton himself if he said he was a Republican. But as I keep telling Republicans, they kinda did.

In large part, a lot of liberals are worried that there’s going to be some sort of right-wing backlash once somebody gets the idea that they can make a false claim. When Rolling Stone published a “searing expose'” on a gang rape at the University of Virginia campus, the story turned out to be unverifiable and was later retracted.  This critically undermined Rolling Stone’s journalistic reputation (to the extent that it had one) and set back feminist attempts to target “rape culture.”

More recently, Bari Weiss in the New York Times worried that the current ascendancy of #metoo feminism is going to set up its own downfall, citing the Teen Vogue writer Emily Linden who had to shut down her Twitter account after posting ““If some innocent men’s reputations have to take a hit in the process of undoing the patriarchy, that is a price I am absolutely willing to pay.” Weiss says that while she sympathizes with that attitude, “I think that ‘believing all women’ can rapidly be transmogrified into an ideological orthodoxy that will not serve women at all. ”

There is of course a danger of backlash with all the sexual harassment stories, but the reason that hasn’t happened yet in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein case is because when an individual is accused of sexual abuse, it’s not just one case that can’t be verified. There always turns out to be more behind it.

When Anthony Rapp made his accusation against Kevin Spacey, at the time I thought it was just an isolated case of Spacey being drunk quite a few years ago. (Though it still reflected badly on him that he would let himself get so out of control.) But according to producers on House of Cards, Spacey had been engaging in harassment fairly recently, and often enough to where it was brought up as a problem. When an accusation gets in the news, it stays in the news if it turns out to be a pattern.

There is now actually a term for how this works. Feminists Valerie Aurora and Leigh Blackwood came up with an observation they call “the Al Capone Theory.” The basis is that Al Capone had a major organized crime ring going with alcohol smuggling, but the Federal government couldn’t get him on those grounds, but they could trace his income and prosecute him for tax evasion on his assets. Aurora and Blackwood said: “We noticed a similar pattern in reports of sexual harassment and assault: often people who engage in sexually predatory behavior also faked expense reports, plagiarized writing, or stole credit for other people’s work.” In other words, even where (say) sexual harassment is hard to prove or prosecute, it may be possible to prosecute an offender for other more easily-established criminal offenses – because the kind of person who engages in sexual harassment is the kind of person who is likely to commit other crimes. “Ask around about the person who gets handsy with the receptionist, or makes sex jokes when they get drunk, and you’ll often find out that they also violated the company expense policy, or exaggerated on their résumé, or took credit for a colleague’s project.” Whether companies know the “Al Capone Theory” term or not, they are becoming more cognizant of this pattern in order to guard against it, given that such personality types can cost money for reasons other than public harrassment suits.

More directly, a lot of these sexual harassment cases gain traction because they’re not isolated incidents. When the first accusations came out against Harvey Weinstein, they destroyed his reputation, but they couldn’t be prosecuted because they were past the statute of limitations for assault. But recently the NYPD announced that it has at least one rape case that is recent enough to investigate.

The approach taken by the authors of the Al Capone Theory points towards a critical standard that addresses the serious possibility of treating men unfairly. One of the concerns of men is that the “whisper network” has the potential to destroy men over isolated, consensual encounters when there is no legal standard such as presumption of innocence. But one thing that’s overlooked with that position is that the abuses themselves are a case where men (usually men) are taking advantage of grey areas in the law and in company human resources policies, and in the reaction of the culture to women’s claims. Until recently, when women did try to work within the system, their claims were disregarded by superiors, for example in the case of Lauer. The Variety article said: “Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears given the lucrative advertising surrounding ‘Today.’ NBC declined to comment. For most of Lauer’s tenure at ‘Today,’ the morning news show was No. 1 in the ratings, and executives were eager to keep him happy.” Whereas the standard that Aurora and Blackwood are endorsing obliges companies to review a person’s overall performance record to corroborate accusations of bad behavior, including accusations against women.

It seems as though liberals in the media and politics are taking a look at where politics have gone and then taking a look at the “sophisticated” culture they did so much to enable, at least when Bill Clinton was president. And whether they admit it or not, they’re making a connection.

Consider that however self-conscious and hypocritical liberals might seem about sexual harassment, they are at least taking a look in the mirror and cleaning up their own house.

But then consider that Donald Trump is still president.

And that Roy Moore, at least initially, was leading in the polls after the Washington Post story came out.

And it seems to me that “conservatives” are looking at self-flagellating liberals, and they’ve decided that if it looks embarrassing or hypocritical to develop a conscience too late, then clearly the best course of action is to never develop a conscience at all.

The American, Conservative?

The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

-The Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft

Every so often when I get bored web-surfing, I decide to quit looking at political websites from unimaginative centrists and politically correct, virtue-signaling leftists and see what it is that is animating conservatives these days.

And then I remember why I quit doing that.

A primary example of genuine conservative intellectualism is at Pat Buchanan’s The American Conservative website, which aims to be something other than the easily digested grievance politics of Breitbart or Fox media, which doesn’t stop them from frequently arriving at the same place. The American Conservative (TAC) is often considered an exponent of the “paleoconservative” wing of thought, “paleo” being from the Greek for “old” (in contrast to ‘neo’) and analogous to the paleo diet (describing practices from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago).

Examining conservative arguments, it becomes clear that there is a clear and irreconcilable difference between libertarianism and conservatism, especially of the Buchanan “paleo” variety. Both conservatism and libertarianism hold that facts exist and are not subject to political correctness or social engineering, but libertarianism still has its classical liberal roots. Libertarianism still holds to a belief in humanism and the value of progress. Conservatives take most progress as a necessary evil at best. (What counts as unworthy ‘progress’, like the Civil Rights Act or the right of women to vote, depends on the individual.) But the common sensibility boils down to: everything sucks. The present sucks. The past is a Golden Age; while the exact time period and what made it good are not fully defined, it can always be defined in the negative sense that the past is always better than the present, and by extension, even this present will be better than any future. Thus the main duty of the conservative is to preserve or restore the old virtues against cultural erosion and fallible human nature, knowing all the while that this noble cause is doomed to failure. It’s a worldview somewhere between J.R.R. Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft.

The moral sense of this magazine is best represented by Catholic Orthodox Christian apologist Rod Dreher. Dreher is probably the most frequent contributor to The American Conservative, also serving as an editor. Quite a few of his posts are the sort of culture-war scares that he has in common with the hard Right. For instance the one where he reposted the picture of a drag queen reading to children at a library named for Michelle Obama: Xochi Mochi, a Satanic Latinx with cotton candy hair, cake-frosting makeup and four giant white devil horns as a crown. Dreher is clearly horrified by this person, and I can understand why. When a grown man poufs up his hair (perhaps to conceal pattern baldness) and then paints his face to a skin color unknown in nature, it has an unnerving effect on many observers.

Yet Dreher is not always so superficial. Indeed, with much of his blog, Rod Dreher writes extended, often profound disputations on the meaning of Christian faith. But as I read them, the more eloquently Dreher makes his case for Christianity, the more it reinforces my atheism. Dreher has written much about his own religious journey and how he had been a staunch Catholic before he investigated the pedophilia scandal within the clergy. Realizing that the Church at its highest levels would rather cover up to save its prestige than turn the criminals over for punishment, Dreher lost his faith and only regained it after shifting to the Orthodox Church. Such turmoil is inevitable when the institution you are depending on to protect tradition and morality is enabling the worst sort of depravity.

At some level, Rod Dreher must know that conservatives are doing the same thing that spiritually tore him apart.

And to Dreher’s credit, he (unlike Pat Buchanan) DOES recognize this and does care. In the last election, he registered independent and voted for a write-in candidate. But TAC is the crew he rolls with. And the contrast between Dreher’s conscience and conservatism in practice is simply an example of why conservatism is counterproductive at promoting a moral order, let alone a political agenda.

But that’s from the standpoint of religious apologism. In the secular political realm, most TAC columnists (who as of Thursday November 9 are oddly silent on the matter of the 2017 elections and the rumors around Roy Moore) focus most of their energies on stopping the menace of neoconservatism within the Republican Party (and analogous policies within Democratic presidencies).

Both “neoliberal” and “neoconservative” are legitimate terms referring to distinct platforms, but they are also general enough, and overused enough, that they are sometimes even conflated. Most often, though, it is a partisan attack made “within the ranks.” Left-wingers may hate conservatives and especially “neocons”, but they really hate neoliberals. With the paleoconservatives, it’s pretty much the same deal. But in either case, the speaker is drawing a distinction between his group, the authentic people, from the moderate “normie” sellouts. It doesn’t matter if our party has the White House and is setting the agenda in Congress. We know better. It’s basically doing to politics what Maximum Rock And Roll did to punk, with similar results.

Specifically in the case of neoconservatism, that movement is defined by roots in the anti-communist wing of the Left, but in the post-Soviet period continues to base itself in an aggressive foreign policy, military adventurism  and a support for Israel which is uncritical to the point of being counterproductive. Thank goodness, Donald Trump has put a stop to all that.

On November 1, frequent TAC contributor Paul Gottfried commented on the issue of the Trump-Russia investigation. Conventional conservative opinion is attempting to push blame for the matter on the Democrats for sponsoring the original investigation into Trump through the Fusion GPS firm. In “Why the Hush on Neoconservative Links to Trump Dossier?” Gottfried demonstrates TAC’s punk credentials by turning suspicion onto his fellow conservatives.

Specifically, the Washington Free Beacon was a conservative website that was noted as retaining Fusion GPS before the Democrats did. Gottfried says other conservatives didn’t delve into the true neoconservative roots of the Free Beacon, in particular that their editor-in-chief, Matthew Continetti, is married to Bill Kristol’s daughter. “The Washington Free Beacon has been a rallying point for neoconservative Never-Trumpers in Washington, and the hiring of Fusion GPS to go after Trump has all the hallmarks of their skullduggery. We shouldn’t be surprised that a neocon publication hired an agency to manufacture news against someone it was trying to bring down; it turns out that Trump, though, was too big a target for Kristol and his friends to successfully dispatch.” Gottfried continues, “I certainly do not blame the liberal media for describing the Beacon as a ‘conservative’ publication, or for tracing the controversial dossier back to ‘Republican allies.’ I heard the same stuff on Fox News, after noticing that Kristol’s son-in-law frequently appears on the Fox All-Star Panel. My impression is that the GOP media are unlikely to abandon their neoconservative buddies and sponsors—and there are very good reasons for this. They all depend on the same donor base, write for the same publications, and share the spotlight with Fox News. It would be suicidal for the conservative establishment to go after its neoconservative participants. Some alliances are indissoluble as well as extremely hazardous. Fox News might allow Tucker Carlson to occasionally rough up such maniacal global interventionists as Ralph Peters and Max Boot, but lowering the boom on their friends for what they can blame entirely on the Democrats would be another matter altogether.”

This line of argument stinks, and like a pig farm or the garbage dumpsters outside Trump Tower, the stench announces itself from miles away. Basically, Gottfried, like his publisher Pat Buchanan, has a common enemy with Trump in the “neocon” Republican establishment. So they’re willing to let the little boy have his tantrums as long as they do more damage to that establishment than to the institutions they want to preserve. But Gottfried, like Buchanan, is also smart enough to realize that Trump is too crazy-stupid to last, and even if he does, the real danger is that the longer he hangs on, the more of a threat he poses to those governmental and social institutions, and when he blows up in their faces, the fallout might disgrace their movement for years and let the neoliberal/neoconservative establishment regain status by default. So Gottfried and other TAC contributors have to build a preemptive case that anything that goes wrong with Trumpism is never their fault, and if Trump has his downfall (due to losing re-election, getting impeached, or hastily swallowing a chicken bone), then he was never really one of them in the first place.

At least Dreher is more honest about his motivations. Last week he started one piece by saying, “Sometimes it seems to me that identity politics and the collapse of the political center are pushing us all towards a prison-gang mentality, in the sense that you may not want to join up with the gangsters of your own tribe (white, black, Latino), but you do to protect yourself from the attacks of the other tribes.” And he concludes another essay by saying “As a registered Independent whose economic and foreign policy views are to the left of the average Republican’s, I would love to have the chance to consider voting Democratic in a national election, especially with the GOP in such a mess. But out of self-protection, I can’t take that chance. ”

Believe me, I can sympathize with that argument. But if being NotTrump wasn’t enough for me to endorse Queen Hillary the Inevitable, then simply being NotHillary certainly can’t be enough for me to endorse Trump now.

Silly me, I thought that if you hated a president who was a pathological liar, crooked real-estate investor, sleazy womanizer and all-around honorless weasel, the last thing you would want to do is support a candidate who has none of Bill Clinton’s competencies but magnifies all his vices to an exponential degree.

I mean, “conservatives”, your boy is the radical antithesis of what you say you want. It’s sorta like if the Russian Bolsheviks had tried to undermine global capitalism by replacing the old monarchy with a corrupt American plutocrat.

…No wait, it’s EXACTLY like that.

Yes, THIS Shit Again

I had another idea for a column, but I wanted to deal with something that came up in the news. Thursday, longtime Democratic Party operative Donna Brazile wrote an article for Politico in which she gave behind the scenes details of the management of the Democratic National Committee, beginning with her own discovery that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had gained control of the DNC before the primary races were over, including not only fundraising but communications. And furthermore this was necessitated by the fact that Barack Obama had left the Democratic Party $24 million in debt in 2012 and had only paid half of it off by 2016.

First, a few points for consideration.

The Politico article is an excerpt from a larger book about the 2016 election which Brazile is now promoting. And in that regard, sometimes the best way to clear a room is to throw a grenade.

(The name of the book, by the way, is ‘Hacks.’ Which may be the greatest Freudian slip of the year.)

Secondly, the details of Brazile’s account of DNC finances are such that, in Clinton’s defense, she pretty much had to take things over. It does however bring up the question of how the party treasury got so bass-ackward in the first place.  Clinton herself has commented on this point after the election, saying that the party was “bankrupt, it was on the verge of insolvency, its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong”. But even if one sides with Clinton and her “this was messed up when I got here” position, it raises a larger issue. The DNC under Obama didn’t need to raise much money for a 2012 primary campaign when Obama was running for the nomination unopposed, but they hadn’t invested anything in state races. Further, Brazile found out that expenses in 2016 were double what they were when she was interim DNC chair five years previously – despite not needing as much staffing in that period. And when Clinton took over distribution of funds, she had promised to rebuild the funding of state Democratic Party organizations, but according to a May 2016 Politico article,  only 1 percent of $61 million raised got to those state parties. Indeed, money that one of Clinton’s fundraising committees had raised for state parties ended up being transferred to the DNC. The issue wasn’t so much that someone needed to take over financing and state party support after years of neglect. The issue was that even after Clinton took over, the Democrats were still spending too much money and not distributing it to state parties.

And as I’ve said at least once, it was obvious by the end of the primaries that the system was rigged against Sanders, AND that that’s not why he lost. What it really comes down to in retrospect is that the Democrats were the incumbent party in the White House with a popular but term limited president, and Barack Obama seems to have made a deal that Hillary Clinton would be his successor even if he never quite came out and said so before the national convention. This meant that she had built in advantages that would have accrued regardless and would have applied even if (say) Joe Biden had run for the nomination. Since Sanders had never run as a Democrat before, he didn’t even have Biden’s level of party support and organization, and in the long run that meant Sanders’ ground game was not where it needed to be to beat Clinton. But then, if Clinton was winning fair and square, then the party elite didn’t need to put a thumb on the scale, and if they wanted to retain the pretense of being “Democratic”, they certainly didn’t need to be so obvious about it.

Of course the fact that this news (or freshly-dug old ground) is not flattering to Clinton and the Democratic establishment has caused their supporters to come out with all sorts of defenses.

First, Clinton fans keep insisting that what Clinton did wasn’t wrong because the Democratic National Committee is a private organization that sets its own rules and contracts, and therefore nothing that happened was illegal. But that is a point frequently made by Brazile herself in her text.

Second, it’s one thing to look at the Bernie Bros and political novices and tell them “I’m sorry, but you just don’t know how the system works.” (Not withstanding that for some of these younger people, this was their first campaign, and after observation many of them concluded that the system doesn’t work.) It’s something else when you have Donna Brazile, who is a veteran operator, who was hired specifically to get party organization and finances in order, partly because she had served in a similar role before, and with that knowledge of finances she’s wondering how expenses got so out of control, and then you tell her, “you just don’t know how all this works.”

You want to know why I’d rather be a Libertarian than a Democrat? Because the fat guy in the Speedo has a better sense of optics.

But what gets me is that all the Clintonistas smugly demanding “SHOW us where what she did was illegal” are the same people who howl and whine that Queen Hillary the Inevitable wasn’t crowned by majority vote. And of course the reason for that is the Electoral College. That institution may not be moral or fair (at least on those rare occasions that it produces a result that Democrats don’t like) – but it IS legal.

Checkmate, atheists!

And the other complaint of the Clinton camp is that airing the dirty laundry is only going to hurt the cause. Aw, liberals. Are you afraid that Trump is gonna be mean to you? I guess it hasn’t occurred to you that Trump and Sean Hannity and his other court toadies are spreading baseless propaganda about Clinton and other Democrats. Are you admitting that you will suffer more damage if the critique is based on fact? Now you’re starting to get it. You don’t do the right thing because you think people will be nice to you. You do it because it’s the right thing to do. Likewise you don’t avoid doing the right thing because you think your enemies will be mean to you. They’re going to do that anyway. That’s why they’re your enemies. That’s what I tell Republicans. But they already know they have no incentive to be reasonable or bipartisan because they know Democrats will not accept it. Even if Republicans were reasonable, (which they’re not) Democrats would still say they were a bunch of meanie vicious ogres who want to ban abortion and force women to give birth to babies so that Republican billionaires can raid the maternity wards and eat them. There’s no convincing them. But some people haven’t made up their minds yet. So when you know that the enemy is going to make stuff up, the last thing you want to do is make their job easier and your job harder by giving your enemy real ammunition. Like, if you are a Republican and you keep going on about the value of life and the need to stop abortion, and then you support a tax “reform” that kills the credit for adoption, it makes people on the outside wonder how seriously you take this “pro-life” jazz. The point is, if you’re a Republican, that’s on YOU.

Similarly, Democrats: you don’t shoot the messenger because the truth hurts you politically. If the truth hurts, that’s your problem. Viewing Brazile’s piece solely in terms of how it hurts Democrats and wishing it hadn’t been brought up makes you look disingenuous, scared of reality, and desperate to control the narrative. In other words, it makes you look like a Clinton.

In some sense it doesn’t matter if you do the right thing or not, because some people will vote for your party no matter what, and others won’t, no matter how unqualified their party’s candidate is. On the other hand, some people are not yet committed, or a mix of liberal and conservative attitudes, or don’t vote for either party because they think they’re both crooked. Some of those you might be able to sway. And given the margins of victory in Trump’s states, the need for those people means that sometimes the truth MIGHT matter as much as propaganda. Some liberals tell me that’s not true, that everything is so hyper-partisan that people will vote for their chosen party regardless. Not so. Otherwise if Democrats outnumber Republicans overall and are dominant in the high-elector-value states, Democrats will usually win. What happened was that a lot of people who voted Obama in 2012 did not vote, or voted for Trump, in 2016. Just as a lot of the white conservatives who voted for Trump last year did not vote for Romney in 2012, because they were just as demoralized by their plastic faker as liberals were by the plastic faker they had last year.

I was telling a Bernie supporter on Facebook that stuff like this will do more damage to the “Democratic” party institution than Uranium One, Seth Rich or whoever Hillary’s elite Ninja squad was supposed to have assassinated this week. Because unlike the Fox News rumor mill, this is independently verified and confirmed by a Clinton partisan, who was a partisan BECAUSE she was hired to do a job and serve the Party, and that meant she expected her party to know shit from Shinola and be up to the task of defeating the most unqualified and malevolent candidate in American history. Clearly, they were not.

Which brings me to my final point.

If I agree with Democratic partisans on anything, it’s this: January is coming up, and Democratic candidates are going to have to start their engines for the midterm races. That means the party needs to get its act together and work in the same direction. But that can’t happen if it keeps rehashing The Election, and liberals can’t stop rehashing the election because the institutional Democratic Party won’t accept that they can’t win by resetting reality to October 2016 and then saying that everything is fine. In the same regard, they’re not going to fix the country just because a Democrat is president. After all, that was our situation a year ago.

A Letter To Senator Jeff Flake

This is the text of an email that I sent to the office of Jeff Flake (R.-Arizona).

Dear Mr. Flake:

On Tuesday October 24, you made a public announcement that you were not going to run for re-election to the Senate in 2018, on the same day making a speech to the Senate explaining your reasons. Among other things, you said “our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles… We must never regard as ‘normal’ the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals.” Without referring to Donald Trump by name, you specifically said: “Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal.” But you concluded by saying that you had to address this matter by retiring at the end of your term, because: “It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party – the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”

The reaction among Beltway liberals and even conservatives was not entirely sympathetic. Many wondered why you would refuse to fight against a system that you now consider intolerable, while others pointed out that the fact that one can only speak out by refusing to participate in it is the reason it cannot be reformed. But the general mood was one of disappointment. I have even seen one columnist (David Faris, at The Week) say that you and Bob Corker ought to defect to the Democrats if you really want to make a difference by tilting the balance. I can understand why you would dismiss such an appeal. It’s not like Democrats are doing very well on their own merits. Moreover, liberals who seriously proffer such an idea severely underestimate the cultural gap that has to be crossed, especially on issues like abortion rights. They don’t understand the level of persecution complex in conservatism, just as they overestimate their own capacity to argue in good faith. When a leftist says “be reasonable and compromise with us!” the right-winger hears “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

But your party already has been assimilated, hasn’t it?

You may disagree, but I’ve thought that the pathologies behind Trump were long-developing before he decided to run for office, and that the Republican Party already was more his party than your party. They were just waiting for Trump to show up. As Jonathan Chait put it in a short but potent piece for New York Magazine, “The conservative identity of the modern party is a function of elites harnessing ethno-nationalist resentment, and using it to advance a policy agenda favored by conservative elites. At times they have succeeded (a series of tax cuts) and at times they have failed (attempting to privatize Social Security and reform immigration). But they largely declined to question the underlying cast of their party and their method of using one kind of political appeal to harvest votes, and using the power acquired thereby on another kind of policy altogether. Trump stole their base from them fair and square by appealing directly to what they wanted. ”

If you believe that anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy, and if you also believe that it is now prohibitively difficult for a Republican like you to succeed in the Republican Party, then you must realize that there is no longer a party there worth supporting. At the same time you want to have genuine political competition, which cannot happen by defecting to the Democrats. But what is really necessary is to realize that this is not a matter of “waiting for the fever to break.” It is not a matter of waiting until Trump is not president anymore and assuming things will get back to normal. Things will not get back to normal. Because “normal” was a dysfunctional political system that was not serving the voters, and that is why they ended it.

For one thing, you have to ask yourself how much of your opposition to Trump is based on his policies (whatever they are, I don’t know) and how much is based on who he is. Put another way, would you still support the same agenda in the Senate if the president were, say, Ted Cruz or any other Republican? And then ask: Would the people who voted for Trump support your party’s legislative agenda if any other Republican were president?

I suspect the answers to these questions are Yes and No, in that order.

And that is why you did not call on Republicans to vote for Evan McMullin or Gary Johnson when you had the chance, it is why you did not make your decision until now, and it is why your fellow Republicans have yet to muster even that much courage.

Because you – and in the broad view, when I say “you” I mean the Republican Party collectively more than you, Mr. Flake – have operated on the same bait-and-switch that Mr. Chait implied in his piece, where the donor class that funds your campaigns wanted one thing and the people that actually vote wanted another and you were trying to split the difference and hope neither of them noticed. The result is that while you may think the Republican Party represented free trade, immigration reform, and small government, its voters wanted a Big Government that looked out for their demographic. Even now, the two factions are lying to each other, and lying to themselves. Steve Bannon, Trump’s “populist” idea man, is currently planning to take the scalp of every incumbent Republican Senator except Ted Cruz. Why? Because he, like Bannon and Trump, supports and is supported by the Mercer family. (Just as Bannon, Cruz and Trump are all connected to Goldman Sachs.) The people who claim they are going to “drain the swamp” are just as much a part of it as all the others.

Senator Flake, you correctly decided that the only way to win this game was not to play it. But that isn’t enough. Because walking away is not going to improve the system in the long run. In the short run it means that the forces currently in control will be able to replace you with someone more to their liking.

Returning to Chait’s column: “In his dramatic resignation speech on the Senate floor, Flake holds up as the solution the separation of powers created in 1789:

I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” — Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote

“Whatever its other successes, this aspect of the Constitution’s design is proving a failure. Ambition is not counteracting ambition. Members of the Legislative branch are able to oppose Trump only if they surrender their ambition. The Constitution did not anticipate the role that would be played by political parties, which has created a reality in which the Legislative and Executive branches are either set in implacable opposition to each other (if under split control or in which the former is a tool of the latter (if under unified control). ”

This is an issue with the system regardless of who the president is. It was a problem with the Democrats under Barack Obama and especially under Bill Clinton. But until now it was not a national security issue.

Donald Trump did basically the same thing as Bernie Sanders, running for the nomination of a major party that he never really belonged to and had never served in office under, because that would have been easier to run for the general election than as an independent. But in Trump’s case, it was also because he knew that an effective sub-branch of government would have no choice but to do what he says. There are reasons why Sanders failed and Trump succeeded, but mostly because the two parties were not in the same situation. The Democrats had a popular incumbent president who (along with senior leadership) decided it was Hillary Clinton’s “turn” after agreeing to support his nomination in 2008. Thus the party put its thumb on the scales during primary season. Moreover, Sanders really didn’t have much of a support base in the South, where he really needed to pick up votes. Whereas not only did Trump appeal to Republicans who felt like they weren’t being listened to before, the Republican leadership was so desperate for power after eight years out of the White House that they would say anything, promise anything and break any other promise to follow somebody who looked like a winner. And so, they did. And they, and you, continued to support him no matter what shameful thing he did, because to you the shame was worth political power. And because doing otherwise would have let the Democrats win.

And so your party continues to support Donald Trump, who is doing that much more than the Democrats to undermine traditional morality and the institutions of government, precisely because you are enabling him to do so.

The party system has become like a cancer on the body politic, and like a cancer, it turns the healthy processes of a body against itself in order to grow.

It cannot be allowed to continue this way. But it will do so unless it is stopped. And you are one of the few people who is in position to do something about it.

My suggestion: change your party registration and run for re-election under the Libertarian Party.

Republican voters are all angry at the leadership, but whereas the Trump fans were mad at them for not making the country a police state, the rest of us were angry at them for going too far in that direction. Your party leadership blew us off because compared to the amount of nativists out there, you decided there weren’t enough of us. But the nativists are all with Trump now. So we’re going to have to be enough.

Your base will have to be the people who have no base. The rest of us. The people who, like you, saw what was happening to the political system and decided we wanted no part of it.

Would running as a Libertarian spoil the next Senate election? The question is, spoil it compared to what? That is a choice every potential candidate has to make if for one reason or another they can’t get a major party nomination. As journalists have pointed out, both Lisa Murkowski (a Republican primaried by the Tea Partiers) and Joe Lieberman (a Democrat primaried for not being left-wing enough) did end up making independent runs and winning re-election without a party. You already are facing the choice of a party that betrays your principles versus a party that always opposed your principles. There would have been some measure of grief if you had acted on principle earlier, but not nearly as much as the amount you have to face now that you’ve painted yourself into a corner.

Doesn’t running as a Libertarian mean abandoning conservative principles? What principles are those, or rather, what principles do conservatives still have in practice? Are you worried that you would have to give up being anti-abortion? The Libertarian Party is not as specific on the issue as the Democratic Party. The party platform (at says: “Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.” In any case, weighing the unknown number of potential unborn versus the thousands upon millions of people in Korea, Japan and the United States being endangered by Donald Trump’s vanity, the matter of being “pro-life” is a simple question of priorities.

But you said you didn’t want to go through the stresses of running a campaign. Well, that’s the beautiful part. If you’re running as a Libertarian, you won’t have to run all across the country, hat in hand, schlepping for campaign contributions. Because you won’t get any. Certainly not from the Koch Brothers, who are often cited as founders of the Libertarian Party but are not helping them now. It’s almost as if, contrary to liberal propaganda, corporate billionaires want a regulatory state, as long as they can control it. So don’t even bother. Just do your job like you’re doing now. In fact, you’ll have just as much chance of getting elected as a third-party candidate as you will by taking your current choice of action and not running at all.

What you will have is something no other third-party candidate has, and that is the advantage of incumbency. That in turn means you can use the media exposure you already have to promote a new concept of politics, that holds freedom of trade, freedom of movement and freedom of conscience as primary values, that holds the Constitution as the law of the land, not the whims of the political class. That is what you and a few other Republicans like Rand Paul have always said you believed in, but perhaps if you had gotten that across with your legislation, you might not be in this dilemma now.

If you don’t want to do this, that’s okay, but if you are remaining in the Republican Party for the duration of your term and thereafter, that means you are going to have to answer some questions when, not if, they come up. Like, if “Chemtrail” Kelli Ward is nominated to take your seat, will you endorse her, for the sake of party? Or will you say that there are bigger issues than party? If you don’t run as a Libertarian, if you don’t at least try to get out of the trap, then you’re in the same situation you are now: wait until the primary and watch a Trump sycophant take your nomination or wait until next November and watch a Democrat take the seat. Quite likely both. At least this way you can try to change the terms of debate, and that is the only way anything can start to improve.

Because like I said, Mr. Flake, some of us already made your decision some time ago. We did not know exactly how the crisis would manifest, but we knew something was coming, based on the decisions that Republicans were making, and we knew that the system they created could not last. As you came to realize this week.

As they used to say on the Left: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.


P.S.: The response I got from the Senator’s email was: “Thank you for contacting me. Because of the overwhelming number of e-mails I receive every day, I can only respond to residents of the State of Arizona.”

The Weinstein Rebranding

People are still wondering what to do about Harvey Weinstein.

CBS’ James Corden mentioned the issue – after late night hosts were taken to task for NOT mentioning the issue – at an October 13 event in Beverly Hills, by opening with ““This is a beautiful room, it’s a beautiful night here in L.A.   It’s so beautiful, Harvey Weinstein has already asked tonight up to his hotel to give him a massage.”  And later: “Harvey Weinstein wanted to come tonight, but he’ll settle for whatever potted plant is closest.”

This did not go over well.  Rose McGowan, who was at the forefront of this issue, called Corden a “motherfucking piglet” and said that he was a friend of “HW.”  Anthony Bourdain, whose girlfriend Asia Argento has (like McGowan) accused Weinstein of rape, ripped that much deeper into Corden, saying “NOONE stood up and said, ‘fuck you, Pop’n Fresh!'” and “Mr. Corden is free to tell whatever jokes he likes.  As he should be.  I’m free to suggest he’s a porcine, pandering tool”.

I was struck that while both McGowan and Bourdain were trying to strike out to stop women from being objectified, neither felt qualms about making fun of Corden’s weight.  Now I love Anthony Bourdain, but: He’s on CNN.  Not only that, he’s a chef, and should be a little more sensitive to the fact that weight gain is a possible hazard of gastronomy.  I could ask Bourdain if his ability to eat without getting fat is a beneficial side effect of his former heroin addiction.  But that would be mean.

I can understand the resentment somewhat.  Harvey Weinstein is simply one very obnoxious example of something that has been tolerated in management-labor relations for longer than anyone has reported, and the culture is getting to a point where people want to do something about it.  So they want comedians to bring it up.  But then when comedians tell jokes about the subject, they go, “how DARE you!  This has been made light of for far too long!  The time for tasteless jokes about sexist millionaires is OVER!”

Oh, of course.  When all the tasteless jokes and sexist millionaires have monopolized the Republican Party, there should be no place for them in our sense of humor.

But this is a serious subject.  When Harvey Weinstein’s own brother says their relationship was so poisonous that he could barely deal with him on a professional level, the brand of the family name has gotten to the point that the future of The Weinstein Company – which produced the Lord of the Rings films and award-winning works by Anthony Mingella and Quentin Tarantino – is almost certainly limited.  And it struck me: How does the rump organization survive when people still know it was associated with the lowest form of sexist, bullying boor?

Have Donald Trump buy it!

After all, he has much the same reputation, and he actually got elected.

And it’s no secret that Trump craves media attention and respectability.  He tried to make himself an Atlantic City casino mogul in direct opposition to the industry in Las Vegas.  And ran four casinos into the ground.  He became a major owner in the spring-league USFL.  And ran it into the ground.  Then he lent his name to NBC’s The Apprentice.  Which got cancelled in its first iteration after steadily declining ratings.  So if anything happened to the (former) Weinstein Group under Trump, at least it doesn’t have much to lose.

And it is testimony to how surreal and reality-threatening this Administration is that just after I came up with that idea, I saw this article while web-surfing:

Close Trump Associate Invests in Weinstein Company, Will Presumably Also Pursue Cosby Partnership

“On Monday, the Weinstein Company announced that a financier named Tom Barrack has agreed to provide it with “an immediate capital infusion” and begin negotiations regarding ‘a potential sale of all or a significant portion of the Company’s assets.’  … In other words, it appears that Tom Barrack is bailing Harvey Weinstein and his enablers out.

“What are some of the other items on Tom Barrack’s professional résumé? Let’s hear from CNN:

It was 1994 and the land once known as “Trump City” was an embarrassing boondoggle, crumbling at the feet of an erratic namesake who took out $400 million in loans and seemed all too willing to default on more. Chase realtors could not see a path to black for debt king Donald Trump.

Tom Barrack could.

“Barrack, the network writes, then traveled from “New York to Los Angeles, Taiwan, London and Saudi Arabia, begging billionaires to buy the loans and keep the bankers from Trump’s throat.” And it worked! Barrack would go on to become a major fundraiser for Trump’s presidential campaign and chair Trump’s inaugural committee. Trump, of course, has been accused of sexual assault by 15 women.”

Truly, birds of a feather.

One has given lots of money and media attention to Bill and Hillary Clinton.  One has been known to be violently abusive of his male associates and underlings, in public.  One has an unproven but well-rumored reputation of of philandering, sexual harassment and even physical abuse and rape.  And such rumors never get anywhere because said person has always used his legal and media connections to crush any individual victim’s attempts at exposure.

What’s the real difference between Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein?  Clearly, the difference is that when one is a Democrat, Republicans actually care.

That’s the key.  Republicans are clearly willing to tolerate the exact same things in Donald Trump that they would never tolerate in any other person.  Not even any other Republican.  Why?  Because Republicans are good Christians.  Because you have to have faith.  And faith is trust in things unseen.  Such as, Donald Trump’s intelligence, competence, and moral integrity.

Weinstein, or more directly, his company, needs a rebranding.  Trump desperately craves legitimacy in the media.   He can get it by attaching his brand to an equally desperate institution that used to have success and prestige and is now just trying to survive.  Like he did with the Republican Party.

Trump.  Weinstein.  It’s a match made in Heaven.

That is, if you, like me, are an atheist.

Twitter Is Too Aptly Named

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.  A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible.

-George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

This week, one of the biggest news stories was the sudden and cascading decline of movie producer Harvey Weinstein as testimony about his history of sexual harassment continued to reach the media. Things have gotten to the point where The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to expel Weinstein from the institution “well in excess of the required two-thirds majority”.

There’s not too much more I can add except to touch on two points people have already made. One, Harvey Weinstein resembles nothing so much as a bowl of oatmeal with a beard on it. Second, Republicans cannot accuse feminist liberal Democrats of hypocrisy in supporting fundraiser Harvey Weinstein if they’re going to continue to enable Donald Trump, whose sexist behavior is that much more thoroughly documented and whose bullying and vengeful temperament is that much more publicly obvious.

Rather, I want to use this issue to touch on something that has been bugging me for a while and ties into it in several ways.

During this week, former actress Rose McGowan has been increasingly active on social media, especially Twitter, in regard to the Weinstein case. Eventually she stated that she was not merely harassed but actually raped by Weinstein. But on Thursday October 12, Twitter suspended her account, which caused McGowan to respond on Instagram asking concerned people to boycott Twitter over the matter. Twitter stated – after the fact – that the reason for McGowan’s suspension was that she had posted someone’s private phone number. They also said, “We will be clearer about these policies and decisions in the future.”

But as pointed out, the miscommunication led to intense controversy for Twitter, along with accusations of inconsistency. “Because the offending tweet that included the phone number had been deleted, it wasn’t initially clear from McGowan’s Instagram post or a perusal of her Twitter feed which of Twitter’s rules she had violated. McGowan didn’t appear to have threatened anyone, and she wasn’t sharing graphic content or engaging in hate speech or violent speech.

“The industry veterans McGowan had been discussing in her tweets, however, are all powerful public figures in Hollywood. This fact, along with the lack of initial clarity about why she was suspended, led to rampant speculation that she was being silenced for being too aggressive about calling out the many men who allegedly stood by while Weinstein continued his pattern of assaults on women for years. ”

On Saturday, the ABC News site released a story about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s official response to the issue.  And reading this piece I was struck by two things. One was that the platform was going to be clarifying new rules: “New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence. [sic] These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. More to share next week.”

I’m not sure if anybody else finds it odd that such a public platform would need to add strictures about non-consensual “advances” and displays of nudity, not to mention glorification of hate and violence. But then when someone like Milo Yiannopoulous gets banned for violating Twitter’s “terms of use” I think the implied joke is that Twitter has any.

Secondly, for Dorsey to make his statement on Twitter, he had to release it in multiple posts. This is an increasingly common usage of the platform known as a “tweetstorm.” In this case, the article shows an excerpt starting with post 6: “We decided to take a more aggressive stance in our rules and how we enforce them. 7/ New rules around: unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence. 8/ These changes will start rolling out in the next few weeks. More to share next week. ” As in, the quote that I just gave from the news article had to be posted as two separate posts in Twitter, within a larger announcement.

This phenomenon has started to develop some criticism within Twitter. One article on Buzzfeed implied that much of the need for the tweetstorm could be solved by just getting a blog. But it went further and mentioned complaints that the tweetstorm violates Twitter etiquette (‘Twitter etiquette’ being an oxymoron that ranks up there with ‘gaming journalism’) in that the “stormer” is making a multi-post statement with no indication of when it winds up, although there are some exceptions. This already shows signs of escalating: “Imagine, for a moment, a future version of Twitter where the tweetstorm™ convention spreads, bleeding first through the tech venture capital and entrepreneur community. Then the tech reporters catch on, issuing long monologues on the future of the industry/a given product. Tweetstorms™ are rebutted by other tweetstorms™, which is manageable and contained in a niche media sphere until Politics Twitter catches on. Always on the lookout for a new broadcast platform, the tweetstorm™ spreads from reporters to pundits and think tanks and then to the politicians themselves. Once a frenetic but followable place, your timeline is now virtually destroyed by an avalanche of soliloquies. ”

But the tweetstorm is simply bringing up both the deliberate and practical limitations of Twitter. When the press interviewed Dorsey in 2009 about the origins of Twitter, he said that at the time (2006) he and the other developers were working with the constraints of the instant-message (IM) format for mobile devices, where basic phones were limited to 160 characters before they split the message. Limiting a username to 20 characters and the main text to 140 was where the concept developed. They worked with that format precisely because it allowed the user to update from anywhere. Dorsey said the “twitter” name came from that idea: “We wanted to capture that in the name — we wanted to capture that feeling: the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket. It’s like buzzing all over the world. So we did a bunch of name-storming, and we came up with the word ‘twitch,’ because the phone kind of vibrates when it moves. But ‘twitch’ is not a good product name because it doesn’t bring up the right imagery. So we looked in the dictionary for words around it, and we came across the word ‘twitter,’ and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information,’ and ‘chirps from birds.’ And that’s exactly what the product was.”

Unfortunately, Twitter is too aptly named. Tweets are exactly that, short bursts of inconsequential information, but that very informality has exploded the popularity of the format such that people are using it in ways that just don’t work. Thus, the tweetstorm. The tweetstorm is for people who are trying to express complex, paragraph-length arguments in a format that is deliberately hostile to the complete sentence, let alone the paragraph.

But the popularity and convenience of Twitter ties into the other issue, namely that the tweetstorm implies the question, “why not just start a blog?” Twitter and other social media like Facebook are designed for immediate transmission and feedback. They are impulse media. I believe that if you are going to have a social media presence, you should know the right tool for the right job. I don’t need a blog to share cute animal videos to friends. For that I have Facebook. I don’t post to this blog every day or even every week because I don’t always have time to elaborate on my ideas, whereas I can usually find the time to post something on Facebook. But I decided to create my own blog not only to post essay-length pieces but because I could control the content to a greater degree than something I posted or liked on Facebook. I had already mentioned that this blog has no comments option because I had noticed the same problem on Facebook that critics are finding with Twitter, the capacity of people to hijack the thread with their own opinions which end up becoming bitter debates that crowd out the original post.  Just as the posting format affects the content, so does the larger context of the medium. Just as Twitter is built around the “short burst of inconsequential information” to an even greater degree than other platforms, that is the way its reply/comment function works. In that respect, for the Buzzfeed writer to complain about the extended reply is to miss the point. To be worried about such a thing is to believe that the other person’s opinion is consequential and worth respecting. That’s not what Twitter is about. Twitter is not about considered opinion. Twitter is about hit-and-run posting.

Which brings us to the most problematic Twitter abuser. Liddle Donnie Trump. The Harvey Weinstein of presidents.

There’s usually a recurring theme in Washington DC’s assessments of the “president”, even from Republicans who have always supported him. It’s words to the effect of “somebody needs to take away his phone.” That is, someone on Trump’s staff needs to make him stop tweeting. The most glaring recent example of this problem was when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced indirect efforts to talk to North Korea and Trump tweeted, “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man”. This is not the sort of thing that a president does if he cares about his Secretary of State and his position as a representative. But that’s not the sort of thing that you do if you care about actions, period. And yet every time the subject comes up,  Trump and his shills defend his use of his personal account to blur the line between personal and political statements, saying that it is how he speaks “directly to the people.” Trump would not be the first president, especially in the Republican Party, to try to bypass the media gatekeepers of information. But as with everybody else who uses Twitter, his choice of platform both shapes and becomes the message. Analysts have noted that a lot of his tweets take place at 3 am or some other time when he is in bed or sleep-deprived, which only increases the likelihood that the posts are impulsive rather than deliberate. Or perhaps, Trump’s actions are deliberate only in that he has just enough concentration to be impulsive. Given that Trump was caught on tape in 2000 saying he couldn’t support Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign because it was supported by David Duke, there is evidence that Donald Trump once had a brain. But Trump, like his party, has since become prone to unsubtle, unconsidered opinion to the exclusion of serious thinking. Before social media, you had AM radio concentrating “conservative” positions down to emotionalism. Now on the Internet, the medium of expression is that much more prone to opinion that is literally reactionary.

The concepts that George Orwell referred to in Politics and the English Language were developed in setting for his novel 1984 with Newspeak, the Party’s official version of the English language. Characters in the book mentioned that Newspeak was the only language in history whose dictionary got smaller with each new edition. In the book’s appendix Orwell stated that the language was deliberately constructed by the Party for specific goals: “The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. … Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum. ”

Orwell’s legacy is full of ironies. A defender of cooperative anarchism, he has become the right-winger’s favorite critic of socialism. More ironic than that, his concept of language control is being best realized not by a state socialist program but by a capitalist endeavor.

In this context, Aja Romano’s Vox article is worth reviewing in that it emphasizes the political element of Twitter’s inconsistent enforcement of policy. “The suspension of McGowan’s account neatly illustrates what has become a pattern in terms of how Twitter deals with harassment and abuse on its site. That is, while victims of abuse and marginalized users who deal with harassment are frequently censured over strict readings of Twitter’s abuse and safety rules, like McGowan, users who are widely seen as perpetuating real ideological violations of those rules are rarely censored.” Milo Yiannopoulous is only one famous example. Donald Trump himself is considered above censure on his Twitter account on the ground that his position makes his posts “newsworthy.” Of course threatening national security by threatening regional nuclear exchange over North Korea is going to be newsworthy. Romano continues: “McGowan’s suspension makes clear that Twitter’s abuse policies, or at least its inconsistent and confusing enforcement of those policies, do not protect abuse victims. In particular, women like McGowan who have experienced harassment and attempted to speak out about it on Twitter can be silenced at any time using the same inconsistent policy that Twitter refuses to levy against a Richard Spencer, a David Duke, or a Donald Trump — men who take advantage of the vagueness of Twitter’s abuse policies to perpetuate racism, violence, harassment, and fear.”

I would assert that the “vagueness” that Twitter’s critics observe is in fact consistent with the site in operation. Twitter is intended to be used in haste. It is intended to change the terms of debate to favor snark, insult and negativity. The positions of users like Richard Spencer or (pre-election) Donald Trump were less provocative to Twitter management than those of a Rose McGowan because whether Twitter’s users or management admit this or not, people like Donald Trump are the ones using the platform in the manner it was designed to be used.

I cannot say that this is a deliberate position on the part of the site developers, given that Jack Dorsey has apparently only now been made aware that such antisocial behavior needs to be discouraged. But that very fact indicates it was not something he was concerned with up to now.

This is also a cautionary example. Twitter became very popular with the liberal pop culture because of its wide access and ease of use, but as with much of liberal culture, it has become co-opted by the authoritarian Right, which is that much more committed to a mindset of whim and irrationality.

In the Vox article, media critic Matt Zoller Seitz was quoted (from Twitter) saying “I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it now: if a superior alternative to Twitter appeared tomorrow, I’d be gone from here in a heartbeat.” My advice to Seitz would be to get together with like-minded people and come to a consensus about what “a superior alternative to Twitter” means, and then find people of means to finance it and experts to create it. My personal goal is to make enough money to where I can buy out Twitter with the specific purpose of destroying the website. Either that, or use the space for something more ennobling, like bumfights or fetish porn.

The Shooting

How long

How long must we sing this song?

-U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday

So this morning I got up with the radio alarm at 3:30 and the station’s “morning zoo” crew was on early to update on “The Violent Incident In Las Vegas.” And as happened over 15 months ago in Orlando, I got my phone and checked Facebook and there was a page asking people to report in to tell their friends they were safe.

But it was happening here.

It remains unclear exactly why the hell things happened the way they did on Sunday night in Las Vegas, but at last count 59 people were killed and over 500 were injured because a man got a full collection of weapons into his hotel room and was able to fire from a distance of 1200 feet towards an outdoor country music festival towards the crowds of people on the ground. Beyond that reports are conflicted as to whether he had 10 rifles, or 18, or 20. And certainly nobody knows why. But hopefully in the next few days Metro police will be able to give us more details.

Where did the attacker get his weapons? And how was he able to get all of them into his hotel room? Because if you know anything about being a security guard in a Las Vegas Strip hotel, you will know that a collection of semi-auto rifles is not the most bizarre thing that you could confiscate from a hotel room.

One disturbing thing that witnesses and ballistic experts agree on is that based on the sound of the gunfire, the shooter’s attack was with full automatic fire. However the police have not confirmed that that was in fact the case, nor whether the semi-auto weapons allegedly found in the hotel room were modified for full auto fire. In any case Metro police did confirm that the shooter did have some guns in in the home that he bought in Nevada legally, and fully automatic arms are, since 1986, not only illegal for civilians to purchase but also illegal for gun companies to manufacture for the market. (New York Magazine’s Benjamin Hart points out “(the) NRA’s Wayne LaPierre actually advocated for that provision, which seems unimaginable now.” In other words, if the main weapon in the attack was either made full-auto or modified for automatic fire, it was already illegal.

The reason we can’t have a “sensible argument about gun safety” is that every time liberals ask for one, somebody like me has to point out inconvenient facts like this.

At the same time, the facts do not favor a right-wing agenda. In particular the talking point that “a good guy with a gun” could stop the bad guy. The bad guy was firing down on a crowd in front of a lighted stage while he was on the 32nd floor of a high-rise hotel directly across the street. A good guy with a gun could not have stopped the attacker. Not from uprange. Not unless he was a much better sniper than the attacker.

And contrary to what national media have been saying, Nevada has passed at least one “common sense gun safety regulation”, that being Question 1, which was on the ballot last year and narrowly approved. Question 1 prohibits private sale of firearms without a federal background check. However Nevada’s attorney general (a Republican) states that the provisions cannot be enforced because the FBI refuses to enforce a state regulation. (In the 2016 election, Nevadans also voted to legalize possession of marijuana, which does NOT prevent a federal agency from prosecuting marijuana possession.) In other words, a case of mutual buck-passing.

As I said with Orlando, it doesn’t particularly matter, because again: THERE WILL BE NO ANTI-GUN LEGISLATION PASSED DUE TO THIS MASS SHOOTING. And it’s not like the reasons why matter. Which doesn’t stop political advocates from saying so. Today in The New Yorker, columnist Adam Gopnik was straightforward: “In The Wake Of The Las Vegas Shooting, There Can Be No Truce With The Second Amendment.” Substitute “First” for “Second” and you can see why people might get offended. But even the constitutional arguments are a red herring. It’s not like this government cares much about the other nine Amendments, so why is the Second the only part of the Bill of Rights that matters? We all know that if some liberals like Gopnik enshrine the First Amendment and wish to destroy the Second, a lot of conservatives in this government want it the other way around.

Rights are not the issue. I have a right to own a gun. I also have the right to vote. My right to vote implies that I and other voters had a right to vote for Donald Trump. Did voting for Donald Trump make the world any better? Not necessarily.

The reason people like me are suspicious of more laws is not just because of the practical considerations – like, any gun prohibition or gun confiscation program would have to be administered by Jeff Sessions. To libertarians, it’s the principle of the thing. Human beings can perform any task that is within their abilities whether government gives us the “right” to do so or not. That is something libertarians realize that the general population doesn’t grasp. Government simply exists to protect the rights that we have. But by the same token that means government exists to serve legitimate needs. And this is something that the general population grasps better than libertarians. Why does government grow? Because it serves a demand. Whether that demand is legitimate or not is up for debate. But as I keep saying, the reason that the Affordable Care Act passed despite all the problems with the bill and all the problems revealed since passage was because Americans found the prior state of healthcare intolerable. Why do legislators campaign to pass laws restricting the activities of businessmen? Because frankly, business concerns can be unethical. Why do we pass labor laws and minimum wage laws? Because we can’t trust that businesses will do “the right thing” by their employees out of the goodness of their hearts. Nor should we even expect this.

For the creep in government and regulation to reverse, people have to be capable of living ethically, not in the expectation that they will need no government at all, but in the knowledge that government can’t be expected to regulate basic decisions for everyone. This might seem unrealistic to people who are disturbed by free will. But the alternative is to give government more and more power. America has become a country where the citizen has more responsibilities than rights, because it is easy to make the case that people assume more rights than responsibilities.

Simply having the power to do something does not give you the right to do so, and in any case, having the power to do a thing does not mean that one should do a thing. Knowing this is part of being an adult, but we seem to be demanding that laws take the place of common sense and morality. Morality is often thought to be subjective, but I think a common denominator is to leave the world a better place than you found it. And if you can’t do that, don’t die after actively making the world worse. This mass murderer deserves to be called a coward because he killed himself rather than live with the consequence of his action, which was to make the world more violent, and thus more fearful, and thus more susceptible to appeals to control. A cycle that has been feeding on itself since at least 9-11.

In that regard, my advice in the short term, if you live in the Las Vegas area, is to schedule an appointment to donate blood. But in the long term, we must accept that each of us has an individual responsibility to stop violence. You cannot trust the collective to do so. Because collective action is enforced by government, and as we see with healthcare and other issues, the collective has its collective head up its collective ass. Until of course you take responsibility to help change that.

Prior to the next election, however, responsibility is an individual commitment. So if you are concerned about the spread of violence in this country, my best advice is:

Try not to kill people.

I know that for some of you, that may be too much to ask. But we have to start small.

Libertarianism as Gateway Drug? Continued

This is a follow up to the previous piece, “Libertarianism as Gateway Drug?” On Sunday September 3, published a rebuttal to Matt Lewis’ piece in The Daily Beast asserting “It seems observably true that libertarianism is disproportionately a gateway drug to the alt-right.” This was after Reason’s Nick Gillespie had already done a critique of the same article, although in Sunday’s piece, the author, Sheldon Richman, has some interesting observations that should be followed.

Richman’s point is that libertarianism is a formalized version of the classical liberalism that preceded social democracy and its American expression in the policies of the Democrat Franklin Roosevelt and “Progressives” like Republican Teddy Roosevelt. It resembles conservatism and other right-wing philosophies in holding that facts exist, independent of social construction, and that observation of facts has led us to certain conclusions that are useful (such as the necessity of property rights within a system of wider recognized rights) and should not be thrown out for political purposes. But in promoting concepts such as equality under law and individual rights, libertarianism is closer to liberalism than to a conservatism which is (in theory) concerned with the protection of tradition and (in practice) the promotion of authority. But as I’ve said, conservatism in NOT a political philosophy in itself. It is a governing approach towards a political philosophy, and in the case of America, the guiding philosophy is based on classical liberalism.

This has led American politics to several points of contradiction as the social-democrat philosophy co-opted liberalism and the preservation of classical liberalism (including respect for capitalism and property rights) became a “conservative” position by default. As Richman points out in his article,

“To say the libertarian movement is a “gateway drug” is to say more than that some prominent members of the alt-right once called themselves libertarians. It’s also to say that alt-rightism provides a purer form of what those members had found in libertarianism (aka original liberalism, or simply liberalism). A good measure of ignorance of liberalism is required to entertain this thought.”

The body of Richman’s piece focuses on how the alt-right focuses on the “exclusionary side of property (rights)” in asserting, for instance, a right to deny access to services, and that this attitude directly contradicts the more inclusionary premise of liberalism, in that free trade promotes greater exchange of ideas between individuals and cultures. “As an institution, property was of a piece with cosmopolitanism and exchange of all kinds. That’s why a “pure” race or culture is as chimerical as a “pure” language. ”

In my post last week I had asserted that the phenomenon Matt Lewis described, while very real, was not a case of libertarianism leading to alt-right philosophy. Rather, it was a case of alt-right philosophy taking over Republican Party conservatism, not libertarianism. One reason for this is the simple pragmatic point that the Republican Party has much greater numbers than the Libertarian Party or the libertarian movement in general, and is thus a better vehicle for politics. But to the extent that the alt-right has a philosophy, it is not a terribly pragmatic one.

What we’re seeing is the result of the misnomers that American politics have been based on since at least the start of the 20th Century. As “liberalism” in both social-democrat and classical-liberal senses becomes more and more identified with the Democratic Party, as I have also said, that means that the modern conception of government is now impossible outside of allegiance to the Democratic Party. This in turn means that both original and modern aspects of liberalism are identified with what people don’t like about the federal government, which in our election system means that the only alternative to that party is the Republican Party.

One of Richman’s other points is: “Another explanation is that some people are attracted to a “fringe” movement not because of anything particular to it but because like the idea of being a big fish in a small pond. If for some reason one pond doesn’t suit, they may jump to another “fringier” pond.” But again, the Republican Party is not more on the fringe of politics or respectability than the Libertarian Party. Or at least, it wasn’t. Which I think confirms my point that libertarianism per se is not the issue here. The common denominator of the “alt-right” movement is a reactionary hatred of anything liberal, even those aspects of liberalism (like tolerance of immigration) that libertarians coincidentally agree with. The Republican Party was already more disposed to that reactionary direction than the libertarian one. But to the extent that libertarianism differs from (what we now call) liberalism in its disagreement with the place of government in our personal lives, it does hold some attraction to that reactionary view. In that regard, Richman is correct, but not for the reason he thinks. Those who seek to rebel against modern liberalism are drawn to libertarianism insofar as it rejects the social-democrat position, but what neither conservatives nor liberals want to acknowledge is how much it retains in common with liberalism. Once certain people realize this, they start looking for something much more deliberately anti-liberal. Richman says that “those who migrate from the libertarian movement to the alt-right have rejected the essence of the freedom movement and its philosophy. They are certainly not looking for a purer version of it.” But this conclusion assumes that alt-right people were looking for freedom at all.

So again, this is the second time that Reason magazine has responded to Matt Lewis’ thesis. It’s another case where Reason has become the unofficial authority on “what is a libertarian?” and in that regard, they’re probably doing a better job than the Libertarian Party. But what all this means is that there is more pressure on the libertarian movement to be more proactive in defining its terms, and to promote them more clearly and to a wider audience. The aftereffects of the 2016 election simply confirm its terms: conservatism has completely lost any constructive role in government, or even public life, while liberals continue to assume they can coast on their reputation as champions of the same government that people are disaffected with. For libertarians to have a constructive role – if that’s what they want – they need to analyze the terms of their own movement, and what “liberty” means and how it is to be achieved.

For example: One of my left-wing friends on social media observed that the liberal plan on race issues (for example, the 1964 Civil Rights Act) could be described as Hamiltonian means towards Jeffersonian ends- that is, the use of a strong federal government to promote and protect individual rights. Recent Supreme Court decisions on gay rights could be described in similar terms. But by contrast, what we are seeing on the Right, especially the reactionary element, would be Jeffersonian means toward Hamiltonian ends -the presentation of a government rollback on the pretext of preserving federalism, state priorities and smaller government, but for the purpose of enforcing government power on the individual, by withdrawing federal oversight of abusive state government.

And then there’s the issue of business. The guy who harassed Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz’ wife over their ties to Goldman Sachs hired numerous Goldman Sachs alumni for the Trump Administration (technically including Steve Bannon) while the Administration maintained a general pattern of appointing department secretaries whose main qualification was being champions of the industry their department is regulating. While libertarians have wanted to get rid of many federal bureaucracies outright, the current setup is more dangerous than having no regulatory agency at all, given that government is now actively on the side of the interests being regulated. What is the need for regulatory capture when you can just BE the government?

This is why I think the question of libertarian influence on the current Right is overblown. Sadly. If that was the main influence on the Republican Party it would be going in the direction of Paul Ryan (at worst) rather than Donald Trump. And if Gary Johnson or other libertarians were in charge of things, I’m sure liberals and “progressives” would hate the results, but the country as a whole would hate them a lot less than they hate Trump right now.