MASS FOR SHUT-INS: THE GIN AND TACOS PODCAST, EPISODE 1

I am finally done and while I'm afraid many aspects of this production are a bit rough, I hope you like the content.

Episode 001 features an interview with Climate Group CEO Helen Clarkson, the history of impeachment before it became part of the Constitution, the story of USPS Missile Mail, the Corpse Reviver #2 for Cocktail of the Month, and a reading by author Andrew Bentley.

Special thanks to Patreon subscribers for their support, Zachary Sielaff for his assistance with the audio engineering, and the bands that graciously allowed me to use their music: Waxeater, IfIHadAHiFi, Oscar Bait, and The Sump Pumps.

It's available on LibSyn and SoundCloud, and yes I'm working on getting it added to other podcast sources like iTunes and Google Play.

ROSS DOUTHAT GETS THE FJM TREATMENT

It has been a while since I've done the FJM Treatment because it is a very time-consuming format. It also requires responding to writing that is so bad it barely merits a response. Something special took place this weekend, though, when resident NY Times Conservative Intellectual Ross Douthat penned a missive about the necessity of bringing xenophobic populism and scientific racism "to the table" when crafting immigration policy. Because how can you make immigration policy if you're not accounting for the preferences of the large part of the population that, like, hates foreigners?

Seriously. That is his argument Get ready for a fantastic voyage into the world in which that not only makes sense but passes for an argument worthy of inclusion in the Newspaper of Record for the Western world. Ladies and gentlemen, "The Necessity of Stephen Miller" by Ross Douthat, deemed worthy of inclusion in the New York Goddamn Times.

Hint: Stephen Miller is not necessary, for this or anything other than an exhaustive list of every man who owns a sex robot he named "Bitch."

After 12 years of failed attempts at immigration reform, the current round of negotiations are turning on a strangely personalized question: When a deal is being made, should Stephen Miller be at the table?

No. Are we done here?

Miller is the White House’s point man for immigration policy (and for strange and strident encounters with the press). He is also an immigration restrictionist: He wants a policy that favors skills-based recruitment over extended families, and he wants a lower immigration rate overall. He says he’s concerned about assimilation and crime and native wages; his critics say he just wants to keep America as white as possible, and that by even bringing him to meetings Trump is making a deal impossible to reach.

Yeah he's also, like, super 1910s-era xenophobic racist "restrictionist" with a lengthy history of having, to put it charitably, some problems dealing with people who are not exactly like him. Every word out of his mouth about immigration is shades of Madison Grant, the eugenics movement, Lothrop Stoddard, and the Immigration Restriction League of the WWI era. "Nordic Stock" has been replaced by "skills based," since we can safely assume that if those skills belong to Indian and Chinese people they will be deemed less relevant than the skills of (wink!) Norwegians.

The critics are right about this much: Having someone like Miller involved is a change from the way prior immigration negotiations have proceeded.

Yeah the government has either been composed of flaming racists or have, for brief intervals, recognized the general lack of usefulness of bringing flaming racists to the table.

As Jim Antle points out in a column for The Week, those negotiations have been consistently bipartisan, bringing together John McCain and Ted Kennedy, Marco Rubio and Chuck Schumer, now Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin — but “they have mostly taken place between people who are fundamentally in agreement on immigration,” who favor both amnesty for illegal immigrants and reforms that would probably increase immigration rates.

What a diverse group of old white guys and Marco Rubio.

The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t represent the actual divisions in the country.

This statement is true, except for his baffling decision to describe this as a "problem."

Can we really set policy without bringing the anti-Semites and racists to the table? Yes Ross. Yes we can.

Americans have become more pro-immigration since the 1990s, but there is still a consistent pattern when you ask about immigration rates: About a third of Americans favor the current trend, slightly fewer want higher rates, and about a third, like Miller, want immigration reduced.

One third, huh? Funny how when large majorities favor some liberal policy it's mob rule, but with right-wing knuckle dragging positions a decent sized minority is more than enough reason to grab the erasers and start making changes.

And there are various reasonable grounds on which one might favor a reduction.

mmhmm.

*makes j/o motion*

The foreign-born share of the U.S. population is near a record high, and increased diversity and the distrust it sows have clearly put stresses on our politics.

The distrust it sows when non-white people join the population? Is "distrust" the right word here?

To reiterate, the entire thrust of this Intellectual argument is that immigration makes racist white people uncomfortable and that viewpoint should be treated as legitimate. This is where the bar is for getting in the New York Times on the right these days.

There are questions about how fast the recent wave of low-skilled immigrants is assimilating, evidence that constant new immigration makes it harder for earlier arrivals to advance, and reasons to think that a native working class gripped by social crisis might benefit from a little less wage competition for a while. California, the model for a high-immigration future, is prosperous and dynamic — but also increasingly stratified by race, with the same inequality-measuring Gini coefficient as Honduras.

Ahh, the low skills argument. As someone who has studied and read quite a bit on the restriction / eugenics / scientific racism movements of the late Industrial Revolution and early part of the 20th Century, this language is essentially verbatim from that era. Maybe they didn't name-drop the Gini Coefficient, but the "unskilled, unwashed hordes" stuff is boilerplate.

With that said, illegal immigration has slowed over the last decade, and immigration’s potential economic and humanitarian benefits are still considerable. And it’s also clear that many immigration restrictionists are influenced by simple bigotry — with the president’s recent excrement-related remarks a noteworthy illustration.

OK both of these sentences are very true, and since they are true and the author seems to recognize their fundamental truth I don't really understand what we're talking about here.

This bigotry, from the point of view of many immigration advocates, justifies excluding real restrictionists from the negotiating table.

Uh oh. Here's comes a "but."

But

Sigh.

The limits of this strategy are evident in the repeated failure of “comprehensive” immigration reform over the last decade and more, doomed each time by the gulf between the plans of Republican negotiators and the actual preferences of their voters.

In other words, illegal immigration is falling (see: two sentences ago) and the aging American population really needs more younger workers and the titans of capitalism all but demand cheap foreign manual and skilled (H1-B type) labor, but…somehow immigration policy has "failed" because what we haven't tried is letting some backwoods foreigner-hatin' degenerates take a crack at buildin' them a real big fence and keepin' out the people who talk funny and look different.

Noted.

The present view of many liberals seems to be that restrictionists can eventually be steamrolled — that the same ethnic transformations that have made white anxiety acute will eventually bury white-identity politics with sheer multiethnic numbers. But liberals have been waiting 12 years for that “eventually” to arrive, and instead Trump is president and the illegal immigrants they want to protect are still in limbo. So maybe it would be worth trying to actually negotiate with Stephen Miller, rather than telling Trump that he needs to lock his adviser in a filing cabinet, slap on a “beware of leopard” sign, and hustle out to the Rose Garden to sign whatever Durbin and Graham have hashed out.

Thanks for the confirmation. We need to stop trying to think about the role immigration plays in our society and economy and instead give a louder voice to people who just don't like it and have no defensible reason for not liking it other than a distaste for the many-tongued hordes of the lesser races.

Especially since last week, Trump and Miller actually made an interesting offer: an amnesty and even a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other Dreamers, more generous than what many restrictionists favor and with no promise of the new E-Verify enforcements conservatives often seek, in return for a shift (over many years) to a skills-based policy and a somewhat lower immigration rate.

So what was proposed would give people who recognize the role of immigration nothing (a phase-out, essentially) and give Stephen Miller and his Cletus Caucus everything they want (racist immigration policy). Wow, quite a deal.

If you’re committed to the view that restrictionists can and must be steamrolled, you’ll respond to this offer the way many Democrats have — call it a “white supremacist ransom note,” punt on policy, and use the issue to rally your base in 2018.

To my knowledge, conservatives have never used immigration crudely to rally their base of provincial, angry, not terribly bright rural white people who are repeatedly told explicitly and implicitly that they are the only Americans who count and they are the modern version of God's Chosen People.

But if you think that lasting deals are forged when all sides are represented, you might consider making a counteroffer: for instance, the same rough blueprint but with more green cards for skilled immigrants, so that Miller gets his cuts to low-skilled immigration but the overall rate stays closer to the status quo.

"Skills" is such a totally disingenuous canard in this argument that I can't imagine anyone, especially anyone on the right, fails to see it for the obvious dog whistle it is.

And no, Ross Douthat of the New York Times, "all sides" being represented is not a precondition of creating effective laws, policies, or anything else. We leave out the shitty sides. Including the shitty sides doesn't make the final product better. It makes it shittier, because it will be informed at least slightly by people and ideas that are shit. Look at how much it has helped to include science denialists in the creation of public health and science policy! And of adherents to totally discredited economic theories with zero evidence to support their validity in the formation of tax policy! Yes, we have ample evidence that when you include voices that are dishonest about their motivations and intentions, factually incorrect, and relentlessly dedicated to an ideology around which every aspect of reality must bend, the end result is better, stronger policy. I mean, how could a nation make energy policy without bringing some Alchemists to the table to represent the 25% of the population that believes the Earth produces oil in its core?

You can't, dummy. Get smart like Ross Douthat, stupid.

WITHER DETROIT

Amazon's reality show approach to naming the state and local government that wins the honor of giving it billions in handouts entered the "prelude to Rose Ceremony" phase last week with its release of the most predictable list of finalist cities ever.

Chicago? Austin? You don't say.

You can see the layers of bullshit from a mile away. It's very obvious that the executives have no interest in finding a place that best fit the criteria and instead just want to make sure they can relocate somewhere sufficiently Cool. How can I tell? Because Detroit isn't on the list.

If this process were driven by any kind of legitimate analysis of what each city can offer, places like Detroit and St. Louis would be at the top of the list. Memphis and Louisville too, maybe Indianapolis. Any of them could fit the following description, but for narrative simplicity let's just talk about Detroit.

Detroit is one of the handful of examples of a city in which it really, legitimately makes sense to find a company like Amazon and say "Here, take whatever you want." Billions in tax giveaways to get a company to move to Chicago, Austin, or Pittsburgh make little sense because those cities are, on the whole, already doing pretty goddamn well. Moving Amazon in might even displace something already there (aside from low-income housing residents, whom Amazon will very definitely displace).

Detroit is half empty. It and St. Louis have not one but TWO enormous airports largely idle. If any local government could make the argument, "Look, let's just give them the Renaissance Center for free" and have it not be an exercise in pointless corporate bootlicking, it's Detroit. The company could utterly call the shots in a place like that since there is so much unoccupied construction. "Detroit, we would like our HQ here, can you raze this ten square block area?" Yes. Yes they sure can.

And nobody would be displaced. Ideally that's how a process like this would work. Find capacity that isn't being used and use it. Instead they're going to show up in Atlanta or Austin or Chicago, point to an area that is already occupied, and say "Get rid of them, we want this." And of course the state and local governments will bend over backwards to do it.

But why? It makes no sense of course, but the higher ups at a tech company basically just want to make sure they can live somewhere suitably Hip. The tax breaks are irrelevant – any state government will readily hand those over in staggering amounts these days.

Next time some corporate giant goes through this process they should just admit "We only think the coasts and maybe four places between them are good enough, so everyone else fuck off." Save Buffalo the trouble. In a system with even the faintest echo of economic planning, though, our government at the national level would be working to direct this process toward the places where 1) infrastructure is in place but currently idle, i.e. being wasted and 2) bringing in a new corporate giant won't displace a lot of what is already there.

But planning is Communist, so instead we get this shitshow leading up to the inevitable "We're going to Austin!" announcement, ignoring that the city is already a cookie with vastly too much cream shoved in it, no remotely affordable housing, and an impending water crisis that will resemble something in Road Warrior. But it's just so COOL.

AGE-OLD QUESTION

It's common, easy, and often necessary to shit on the Democratic Party in the same way it's easy to shit on the Cleveland Browns. The amount of material they give you to work with is…extensive.

As usual, 18 months before the 2020 election kicks off – yes, it'll be here before you know it – lots of names are being thrown out there. And just as usual, the names are often recycled self-nominees or media speculation about candidates with very little track record who look good on paper but may not even be willing to run.

Unless this story is trolling, John Kerry is apparently putting out feelers. Joe Biden too. Maybe Hillary again. Maybe Sanders again.

Now. An important caveat. The Democratic Party as an organization has nothing to do with this. Anyone can say they are thinking about running. Also, don't forget that in this "Invisible Primary" period people gravitate toward names that are familiar. Those names will do well in a hypothetical poll because they're the ones people know.

That said, consider for a moment the current state of Democratic leadership in Congress and prominent (at least in terms of name recognition) maybe-running candidates for 2020: Schumer (age 67), Pelosi (77), Bernie (76), HRC (70), Biden (75), Durbin (74), Steny Hoyer (78), and Kerry (74). All of those people are white. Two are women, one of whom (Pelosi) has never even suggested aspirations beyond the House.

We may reasonably ask if having so much power within the party that is supposed to represent a diverse America better is not helping matters. This is not a shit-fest; all of these people have done good things at some point in their long political careers. But is a retirement-aged white guy really the way forward? For anything?

I don't think this issue is unique to the Democratic Party or even politics. With no disrespect to the more aged and experienced among us, I can't help but feel like the current generation of older people is remarkably unwilling to ride off into the sunset and let The Youths (say, some spry 55 year olds, maybe) take over. Look, that generation had a very long run. It has to end at some point. It is OK to elevate people born after 1960 into leadership roles, in politics and everywhere else.

Part of the problem for the parties, of course, is that younger people today either see life in politics as nightmarish, can't afford the very high cost of entry, or both. Congress has done a very good job, alongside the right-wing media, of making the idea of a career in Washington seem highly unappealing. Why would anyone get into this game to be torn to pieces, threatened by lunatics on the internet, dumped all over, and blocked at every turn by special interests? The only answer is ego. You'd put up with all of that if you had an enormous ego that needed power.

So that guarantees that even if younger people do enter the game they're probably not the kind of person who is likely to do anything to improve it.

Yes, there are younger Democrats who could run in 2020. And people like Biden and Kerry may not be all that serious about trying again. It is a problem that goes beyond the 2020 Democratic candidate pool, though. It's a delicate topic because it makes older people feel stigmatized and attacked, but it's very difficult to rebut the idea that maybe, just maybe, part of the problem with a lot of our institutions is that the powerful people in them are so often so old. Maybe someone with less "experience" (in a broken system) is a logical alternative.

I mean, it couldn't go much worse.

STEPS AHEAD

Since the Democratic Party began taking steps in the late 1980s to position itself more toward the center without completely losing its identity, the American left has been in constant tension. That's not a condemnation. In a two-party system and a country of 300,000,000 people there are always going to be intra-party coalitions that have to learn how to live with one another.

Liberals and leftists can look at the same thing and see totally different realities. Liberals look at the deal Senate Democrats made to reopen the government and fund CHIP for six years as a strategic win; leftists look at it as another capitulation for a promise (a DACA vote) that everyone who isn't in a medically-induced coma knows will not be kept. Liberals want to amass victories like this and demonstrate to voters that they are better at governing, have better issue positions, and aren't completely cold-blooded lizard people monsters like Republicans. Leftists feel like the Democratic Party could mobilize more non-voters by taking stronger, more strident stands that will appeal to people lacking much energy to pick through the fine details of policy negotiations.

One group sees capitulation; the other sees a good chess move.

If I tend toward Leftist it's not because I think Liberals are factually wrong; it's inarguable that getting CHIP off the table from the position of a minority in both chambers is an accomplishment. My issue is that I think the strategy that such Wins add up to a convincing message is flawed. It should add up to that, but it never seems to happen.

A friend and colleague posted four points in favor of the compromise. I think all have merit, and also have obvious counterarguments.

1. They don't get blamed for a shutdown – A lot of people do not even know the government is shut down, to say nothing of the many more people who have no idea why it is shut down or who is responsible for it. Democrats are constantly gaming these Blame/Credit scenarios without recognizing that, you know, a third of Americans don't even know which party controls Congress. The strategy depends on people knowing the details. And only a small fraction of political junkies do. And think about how many people will forget all about this in a week, let alone by November. Having "Winners and Losers" implies people are paying attention and have accurate information. OK.

2. If DACA doesn't become law between now and Feb. 8th the Democrats can blame the Republicans. – And Republicans will blame Democrats. Democrats will believe the Democrats and Republicans will believe Republicans.

3. If it does pass, they can claim credit. – The GOP will also claim credit; see 1 and 2.

4) They can always try again after the 8th without CHIP on the line. – Sure, getting CHIP off the chopping block is good. I think this overestimates the extent to which the people taking to the streets by the tens of thousands and yelling for Trump's head on a platter are going to get real enthusiastic in response to messaging like "We got a six-year extension on CHIP!" or "In early January we proposed X Y and Z but Trump rejected it!"

Beltway media personalities who embrace the Reasonable Person – Centrist persona like a second skin are forever talking about "optics." How is this gonna look? How will the spin play out? If the past two years have not convinced them yet that this political system has evolved beyond spin to creating parallel realities, nothing will.

I'd argue that "We are doing everything we can to work for our legislative priorities" makes sense as a message intellectually, but forever harping on the word Bipartisan and calling anything less than the worst possible outcome a victory frustrates as many angry, emotional people as it appeals to people who watch the news every day. The natural constituency for the Democratic Party is too busy trying to stay afloat to care about procedure and political gamesmanship.

Compromise brings short-term victories but undermine the ability to pursue long-term ones. Sometimes making a deal is smarter but fighting is worth more down the road.

NPF: THE REFLECTING GOD

Recently I took my young niece/nephews to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Despite being a local Institution, it was my first trip there since the 1990s. Well my first trip inside, anyway. It is one of my favorite end-point destinations for bike rides, so I am on the grounds regularly during good weather. But I haven't seen the interior in ages.

Museums are in a tough spot these days. Kids are so hard to stimulate and interest now given the overwhelming sensory stimuli available to them at all times. The MSI exhibits were starkly divided between the Old School ones I remember clearly from childhood and the New Stuff full of touchscreens, very loud noises, and lots of flashing lasers. You see the new stuff (not to mention the tablets and phones every child has on hand) and you realize the more traditional exhibits simply doesn't stand a chance. The enormous model train that takes up 1/4 of the main level at MSI was surrounded with parents whose kids couldn't have looked more bored if they were in church.

My favorite exhibit from the olden days also has lost to the ravages of time: the "hear yourself on the phone" thing. I remember being five, ten years old in the 1980s and finding that absolutely mind-blowing. And you would have to wait in line with dozens of other kids (AND ADULTS) to use it. You spoke into the phone for a couple seconds, waited, listened, and burst into giggles with OH MY GOD DO I REALLY SOUND LIKE THAT? and a good time was had by all.

Now of course there is nothing novel or thrilling about people hearing their own recorded voices. The idea that it even could be novel is incomprehensible to anyone under 20.

This visit took place as I am in the process of completing the first episode of Mass for Shut-ins: The Gin and Tacos Podcast. That has involved a lot of time spent recording my own voice and nothing else, then listening critically to the results. The way we perceive how we sound is rarely subjected to a lot of self-criticism, but I promise you it starts to get very weird after you do it for hours in this kind of setting.

For lack of ability to explain it better, it's like looking at part of your body under extreme magnification. You just…notice a lot. You notice things that have been there forever but you have never actually seen. And then you start to think, wow this has been here all along. Other people probably see it; why haven't I seen it before? Then you get paranoid. What else am I not noticing?

Reaching that point signals a good time to take a break.

The most interesting part, if you're recording something solo, is not the tone of your voice. You will very quickly get used to the fact that it sounds how it sounds. It's the speech patterns. I've done some light reading on this (there actually is Theory of what makes a Radio Voice sound appealing) and discovered that I'm a Riser – each complete thought ends with a rising inflection on the final word.

Here's the thing about when you discover something about a speech pattern you have – it's really, really goddamn hard to alter it. In my case I've been talking this way for 39 years. Undoing it is like trying to learn how to write with my left hand at this point.

We get used to seeing ourselves in mirrors at an early age. Those of us who are a bit older, presuming we're not entertainment industry professionals, haven't totally gotten used to hearing ourselves though. It has been an enlightening experience to say the least. I wouldn't describe it as life changing, but I didn't begin the process of learning how to podcast expecting that I'd end up subjecting such a basic part of my existence to under-microscope scrutiny.

MARGINAL COSTS

Here are two statements. Tell me which one you agree with, if either:

1. "If your supervisor at Wal-Mart asks you to work an extra half-hour off the clock because you're at 40 hours and they don't want to pay overtime, you should just go ahead and do it. Cut the guy a break, he needs SOMEONE there to work those 30 minutes."

2. "If you're a teacher and your class is full and a student asks to be added because he forgot to take it for 3.5 years and now he's trying to graduate, don't be a dick. Just let him into the class."

Surprise! Those statements are functionally identical.

A really, really interesting thing about teaching is the way that people are eager – even Liberals who would find the first statement abhorrent – to tell you that you're in the wrong if you refuse to agree to do more work without additional compensation. Never mind that you haven't gotten a raise or have taken a functional paycut for the last decade or two. Never mind that you very likely have too many students in your class already. Just say yes. To more work. And that's what every single person enrolled in a class is – more work. More grading, more one-on-one time, more emails, more office hour visits (OK probably not, but in theory), more of everything you're already doing.

Like everyone other than commenters on Fox News and local newspaper websites, I resist doing additional work for the same compensation whenever possible. The principle does not change because one way of conceiving of units of work is hours and minutes and another is per person.

Students, parents, administrators, and gawkers alike make a collective effort to guilt educators into doing more work all the time. Don't you care about these kids? Isn't it your duty to make sure they learn? Aren't you morally derelict if you're not working FOR THE CHILDREN all the time? Jeez I thought you cared about kids. I guess you don't.

It is a special kind of right-wing, anti-labor rhetoric – it's special because you get it thrown in your face constantly regardless of the ideological leanings of the person saying it. Why?

Part of it may be that everyone remembers the times they fucked up as K-12 or college students; the times they needed someone to cut them slack because they were too drunk, high, lazy, or immature to realize before the tail end of senior year (or Fifth Year) that they need to take College 101 – Intro to College in order to graduate. And they remember how they had to beg, plead, cajole, and bargain to get some professor, admin in the Registrar's office, or academic advisor to yield to "Cut me a break man, c'mon."

So, some of it is just projection. Most of the rest, the kind you get from Centrists and conservatives, is bog standard anti-labor rhetoric – fat, lazy, entitled teachers who never do any work and make $250,000/yr to sit on their fat lazy teacher asses and count their lavish pension money. Right-wing obedience to authority tendencies in the United States most definitely do not encompass the teaching profession.

I can't speak well to K-12, but at the university level I'd like you to keep in mind that when you're talking about the job faculty do you are talking about people who maybe, if they're lucky, have seen their salary increase 1 or 2 percent since the crash of 2008. If they're lucky. All that has happened since then is that more work, more responsibilities, higher expectations of research output, and more bodies per classroom have been thrown at them. Nothing is wrong with faculty, like any other employee anywhere else in the economy, refusing to do additional work they are not obligated to do if they receive no compensation for it.

Labor has value. Every non-teacher recognizes that if someone wants more of your labor, they have to pay for it. Think a little harder about what you're asking when you suggest that we should "be cool." You're suggesting we work more for free.

FOR THEE

When traveling internationally government agencies like the US State Department or the UK Foreign Office can offer valuable advice. The basics – shots, visas, potential complications – are all in one place and up to date. Their travel "advice," however, must always be taken with grains of salt. Let's just say they tend toward extreme caution. I think the State Department in particular imagines the would-be US traveler as an 18 year old college freshman who has never been outside Paramus, NJ and will be unable to handle the slightest "non-Americanness."

Come to think of it, that's a great approach. That is the modal American tourist.

El Salvador is listed by the State Department in Category 3 (Reconsider Need to Travel) which is one stage short of "Do Not Travel Here." The Embassy warns that the crime threat in El Salvador is "critical" and notes, as it does for many countries, that law enforcement is corrupt and as likely to rob you as help you. Poor rural sanitation, Zika outbreaks, and political unrest due to government corruption are also noted. Again, they tend to overdo it a bit, but suffice it to say that El Salvador is a place with many problems.

Despite warning Americans not to go there, the White House announced recently that 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants to the US are about to be given the heave-ho and, presumably, forced to return. Makes sense, right?

What is the point of this? What is the point of any of these targeted attempts to legislate immigrant-bashing? This accomplishes absolutely nothing and benefits no one. Like the "travel ban" countries, we declare these places chaotic shit holes and then actively move to ship people there. I guess borderline failed states are good enough for SOME kinds of people, amirite.

It's worth noting that without being overly dramatic or self-critical, a good portion of the responsibility for the corruption, brutality, and poverty of Central American states belongs squarely in Washington. I mean, what do you think paramilitary death squads do after they've overthrown a duly elected leader, disband and go home to read magazines?

The irony of explicitly calling a country too dangerous to visit and then deporting people to it is almost too much to bear, but I suppose we're all getting used to bearing it.

PLAY-ACTING JOURNALISM

The whole routine CNN, Jake Tapper, and White House sycophant Stephen Miller went through on Sunday was as pointless as it is dumb, and as dumb as it is exhausting.

Tapper and CNN are predictably taking victory laps now, playing endlessly the clip of Tapper cutting Miller off and accusing him of wasting the audience's time. Meanwhile, hot garbage like "The 24 most grotesque lines from Jake Tapper's Stephen Miller Interview" dots their homepage and will no doubt creep well into the upcoming week.

If Tapper is concerned about wasting his audience members' time, the answer is simple: stop giving Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, and all these other skeletal fascist nitwits an opportunity to take your microphone and address a worldwide audience. What I saw Sunday was not Jake Tapper being a great journalist; I saw Jake Tapper inviting a man he knows to be a lying, callous, racist piece of crap onto his show for the explicit purpose of kicking him off the show and looking tough. You don't invite Stephen Miller onto the show because you think you're going to get a good interview out of him or that your audience will learn something. You invite him onto the show because A) you agree with him, or B) you want to use him as a prop. This was the latter.

Great job shutting him down, Jake. It would be even more impressive if you didn't have him on your show in the first place.

We are two years into the Trump-as-Serious Politico era and I promise you there is not one single person alive in the United States who is one cable news interview away from suddenly realizing what Trump and the people he surrounds himself are. The idea that CNN or any other journalists are "exposing" these people, here in January 2018, is so stupid only a truly committed "Both Sides Do It" Centrist could find value in it. Nobody, and I mean not one single person, is going to see Stephen Miller on CNN on January 7, 2018 and walk away with a changed opinion. "You know, I thought Team Trump was full of nice, smart people…but now I'm having second thoughts!"

Who ARE these people? Who needs yet another interview full of lies and whitewashed racism and soft-pedaled fascism to suddenly realize what they are? Who hasn't figured it out but will if the legendary journalistic skills of Jake Tapper show them the path to enlightenment?

Stop it. Just stop it. Stop giving these people a platform. Worse, stop inviting them on the show simply to play Mr. or Mrs. Badass for a day. "Stephen Miller came on the show and started spewing lies. And I said, NOT TODAY, MISTER! and shut him down!" Stephen Miller spews lies. That is his thing. It's what he does. When you bring on a serial liar and then scold him for lying serially it feels more than a little…disingenuous? Not fake, but more than a little pointless.

I get that CNN's ratings blow and that Sunday shows in general are taking a real beating since audiences are burned out on Trump and politics. In that light, I suppose this is a harmless enough stunt. Certainly no one will ever feel badly for Stephen Miller. Tapper could drop-kick him in the back of the head and most viewers would walk away satisfied. If CNN is really concerned about its audience and its on-air integrity, though, the simpler solution would be to refuse to have as guests the president's dumbest hangers-on who have proven beyond any doubt congenitally incapable of telling the truth.

Until then, spare us the Journalistic Integrity routine. If you had any you wouldn't have been interviewing Stephen Miller a year into this presidency.