ON BLAST

Posted in Quick Hits on January 2nd, 2018 by Ed

A new piece at The Week looks at some high-profile research from political science showing how Trump's practice of formally listing potential Supreme Court nominees is likely to put even more pressure on the judiciary to lean right.

And if you haven't done it already, mash that Patreon because a special sneak preview of Podcast Episode #1 will be available soon.

MAILBAG

Posted in Quick Hits on December 30th, 2017 by Ed

Use the comments on this post to ask questions you'd like to have addressed in the upcoming podcast Mailbag / Ask Me Anything segment. It might be nice to give a name and location – "Bill from Texas" or whatever – but obviously providing personal information should be done with discretion and is not a prerequisite.

Alternatively, if for some reason you're really worried about anonymity you can ask a question through this plugin. Your question will be posted as a comment here and the author will be listed as "Someone."

Your question is saved and will appear when it is answered.

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RAPID FIRE

Posted in Quick Hits on December 19th, 2017 by Ed

Two pieces went up at other places yesterday.

One is at The Nation where I look at the tax bill's social rather than economic goals. Basically it's a throwback to Gilded Age capitalism, without even any window-dressing to try to make it look like it's intended to help anyone who isn't already wealthy.

The second is at Rolling Stone and is a polished version of Monday's "Fizzle" post, looking at the risks for the Democratic Party moving into 2018. It has built up momentum and has maybe one more election cycle in which it can coast on anti-Trump hatred, but if they don't start working harder for the people who bust their asses to get Democrats elected they're going to have big problems thereafter.

I like this. I like what I'm doing. I have no idea how I'm going to avoid living outdoors given what writing pays, but. I like the way this feels.

THE YEAR IN TRUMP

Posted in Quick Hits on December 17th, 2017 by Ed

A piece at Rolling Stone went up late last week that required me to go through the Trump presidency day by day. The point was to demonstrate how many ridiculous things have happened that we've forgotten about because of all the OTHER ridiculous things that have happened. It was both kind of fun and kind of horrifying. It's not an experience many of us want to relive, but I tried to make sure the end result would be fun to read. What else can we do but laugh, right?

NO PASSING FANCY

Posted in Quick Hits on December 12th, 2017 by Ed

In many ways the Roy Moore phenomenon is a harsher indictment of all the things wrong with this society than Trump's victory 13 months ago. As many observers have said all along, Trump is only a symptom of what the GOP has done to embrace nationalist, racist, clannish right-wing populism and xenophobia since the 1980s (but accelerating sharply during the W years when "court the evangelicals at all cost" became party dogma).

Moore's campaign is also doing a lot to give the lie to the centrist mantra that there are Good People on all sides and we will overcome our differences with dialogue. As Charles Pierce (hi!) said after his attempt to take in Monday evening's Moore rally:

You grow exhausted from the effort it takes to keep mockery at bay long enough to explain that what Moore and Bannon are selling is a dangerous blend of religious extremism and McCarthyite bombast, Roy Cohn in Torquemada drag. You grow exhausted by the effort it takes, over and over again, to remind yourself that there are good people in the crowd cheering this river of sludge and nonsense.

Finally, you give up. Roy Moore is a vehicle for collecting suckers, for liberating them from their responsibility as citizens in a self-governing republic, and anybody who thinks this waterheaded theocrat belongs in the United States Senate is a dupe and a fool. Finally, you don’t care if the people behind Roy Moore, and the people in the crowd in front of him, believe you are a member of the coastal elite or an agent of Lucifer. Finally, you grow weary of the smug condescension of religious bigots. Finally, you decide to put down the twin burdens of excusing deliberate ignorance and respecting the opinions of people who want to light the world on fire to kill their imaginary enemies. And you give up and tell the truth.

These people deserve what they get.

tl;dr – At some point you have to recognize that these are adult human beings making a choice, not hapless Good People being "bamboozled" (that word is all the rage lately) into supporting a theocratic demagogue. It's exhausting and unnecessary. Eventually we have to call this what it is: a bunch of really shitty people getting exactly what they want.

In the long run, they will deserve every bit of what happens to them.

PATRONIUS

Posted in Quick Hits on December 5th, 2017 by Ed

In response to some big changes that will be taking place in the near future – more on those presently – I've yielded to the suggestions of "You should start a Patreon."

When I said I would podcast if I got 500 people to sign up I was 78% kidding. But it looks like the goal is…not exactly in sight, but plausible? I suppose that after many false starts and hesitation wounds, I may finally have to figure out how in the hell to make a podcast. But only under duress.

VICTORIAN REDUX

Posted in Quick Hits on December 4th, 2017 by Ed

For the past few years I've noticed with great interest that the modern aristocracy's attitudes are reminiscent of – and in some cases identical to – those that prevailed among the landed aristocracy in Britain prior to the agricultural depression of the 1870s. I'm sure that's neither the only nor the best historical comparison; it just happens to be a period about which I've consumed a fair amount of information. So the links stand out.

During that age of Darwinism and formalized class distinctions, the theories about the poor that prevailed among the privileged ranged from patronizing but kind of coming from a place of good intentions to legitimately contemptuous. Malthusian social and economic theories were, shall we say, quite popular among that class of privileged people who identified the main problems with overcrowded London as 1) too many people, and 2) too many people with character flaws that kept them poor (drunkenness, licentiousness, etc.)

And more than a few people still think that way: too many people, and too many people who lack the Character and Good Breeding to avoid poverty and the loving embrace of Charity. Here's a quote from Chuck Grassley (R-IA) after the tax bill vote:

I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.

And here's Thomas Malthus from An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798):

The laboring poor, to use a vulgar expression, seem always to live from hand to mouth. Their present wants employ their whole whole attention, and they seldom think of the future. Even when they have an opportunity of saving they seldom exercise it, but all that is beyond their present necessities goes, generally speaking, to the ale house.

Can you spot the differences? Me neither.

*CHICAGO STADIUM GOAL HORN*

Posted in Quick Hits on November 20th, 2017 by Ed

My proudest professional – possibly human – achievement to date is getting something published on Deadspin. It's about hockey. It's about the 80s/90s Blackhawks and their miserly SOB of an owner. Enjoy.

GAME THEORIES

Posted in Quick Hits on November 15th, 2017 by Ed

I have some bad news. There are about a half-dozen ways the Roy Moore situation can play out, and most of them are wins for the GOP. As unbelievable as that is – that nominating a pedophile could end up benefiting the party – don't act like you're entirely shocked. This is 2017 after all.

Here are some outcomes.

1. Moore stays on the ballot and loses to Doug Jones. Democrats get a brief win out of this, since Jones would run and presumably lose in 2020.

2. Moore wins, the GOP and its slim majority expel him from the Senate, and Alabama's Republican governor appoints a replacement. This is the most likely outcome, I believe, and is a huge GOP win. This enables them to present themselves as heroes and do lots of phony moralizing about how they just cannot condone this man, and then he gets replaced by some totally generic Republican who doesn't cause anyone any trouble. Democrats would have to go along with the vote to expel him – how could they not?

3. Moore withdraws and is replaced by another Republican who wins. Same as #2 but without the added "We gallantly saved you from this man" talking points.

4. Moore withdraws and is replaced by someone who doesn't end up appearing on the ballot, leading Moore and Other Republican to split votes and hand Jones a victory. See #1.

5. Someone like Jeff Sessions is pushed as a write-in or Independent candidate at the last minute. This would be a power play by the GOP leadership in the Senate to sink Moore's chances of winning. A write-in most likely would not do well enough to win, but would certainly tip the balance in a close Jones-Moore contest.

6. Moore wins and then a couple of GOPers in the Senate balk on expelling him for whatever nonsensical reason they whip up on the spot. The party holds the seat but exposes itself to an endless barrage of "They welcomed a child molester into their club; worse, they lied about it" attacks.

7. America disbands after realizing that the mere fact that we're having a conversation about a pedophile who has a 50-50 shot to be elected to the Senate means that we're entering the decadent Late Roman Empire stage of our decline and at this point we're just killing time until the Goths sack DC.

I think plenty of Alabamians have time to talk themselves into believing that a bland Democrat is actually worse than a kid-diddler, but I also think the Senate GOP is sincere about expelling him. So, I'd bet on #2 if forced to choose. #7 sounds pretty good too, honestly.

BIXBY LETTER

Posted in Quick Hits on October 18th, 2017 by Ed

Once America had a president who wrote the following:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,–

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln

Now look at us.