THIS IS WHY YOU THINK ABOUT IT FIRST

Posted in Rants on August 21st, 2017 by Ed

The short address about Afghanistan on Monday evening was among the least offensive speeches Trump has delivered. Not because he stuck to the script, but because literally any proposed "solution" to that ongoing conflict is approximately as stupid as any other.

There is no solution. Obama knew it, and the people with half a brain around Trump know it too. The options are (to coopt language from an equally long and lamentable conflict) to "Vietnamize" the problem, to do nothing, to bring everybody home, and to send more people over. Clearly the practical solution is to just pull the plug and bring everyone home. But since we can never admit a mistake or resist the pull of the sunk costs fallacy, that's politically infeasible even for a president who isn't a monster.

Vietnamize it? Give me a break. The Afghan government barely exercises any sovereignty in the country's urban centers. Go five miles outside the security perimeter established by the American military and that country is lawless. They have zero capacity, even after 15 years of throwing money and (military oriented) solutions at the problem. So (presumably Mattis) decides, what the hell let's send 10,000 more people there, or whatever. It's a token gesture likely to accomplish nothing in the short term and less than nothing in the long term.

This is why we were so vocal about the dumbass logic used to support intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan – because once you become embroiled in this kind of situation, it is next to impossible to get out. You become, as the trillion dollar military ours is, the main institution of power in an otherwise weak, ineffectual, corrupt, and impotent government. And a few years in you realize that no amount of treasure and patience and pleading is going to get this puppet government to do the things you believe it should be able to do, so the options are reduced to pulling out and watching the whole thing collapse Saigon '75 style or you do what we are doing right now which is to make an essentially eternal commitment to fighting a low level insurgency in a country you don't fully comprehend and in which you are distinctly unwanted.

The only thing that makes any sense is cutting bait, and the conflict has been back-burnered so completely with the American public that there will never be a critical mass of public opposition to force Congress and the Pentagon to pursue that course. The DoD found the perfect heat setting to maintain the war on a low simmer, barely noticeable except for the people who are directly being shattered by it. Maybe that's the lesson they learned from Vietnam – abolish the draft and keep the troop levels low enough that eventually people will just kinda forget about it.

If that was the plan, it worked.

BALBO'S THEME

Posted in Rants on August 17th, 2017 by Ed

I was waiting to see which one they would pick.

With Confederate monuments being taken down all around the South, northern cities are on the sidelines watching. There are no Confederate monuments here for obvious reasons. But since pulling down statues is obviously very Hot right now, I knew someone would pore over the list of Chicago monuments until we found one to pull down so we can be part of the fun too.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean that a monument must be Confederate to be inappropriate. Plenty of monuments celebrating American military victories in Indian conflicts, for example, are prime candidates for removal. Columbus statues too. But it certainly feels like a bit of a reach for Chicago aldermen and activists to target a really obscure monument dedicated to Italo Balbo.

Yeah.

Balbo is a very minor figure in the history of aviation. When aviation was a subject of intense public fascination in the 1920s, Balbo was briefly a recognized figure in the US When Chicago hosted the World's Fair in 1933, almost every nation on the planet left the city with some kind of gift (a convenient way to avoid having to ship home part of its exhibition). Italy, which was of course led by Mussolini at the time, left a 2000 year-old Roman column atop a small pedestal, a combination historical artifact and monument. It was named after Balbo, probably because he was one of the few Italian "celebrities" known in the US at the time who was not on the outs with the Italian regime.

It's just a gift. "Thanks for the World's Fair hosting, brah." The city did nothing special to acquire or install it. It didn't ask for it or sponsor it. And most importantly, I'm pretty goddamn sure that literally no one has walked past it and thought "Oh my god why is that offensive monstrosity here." 99% of this city couldn't even tell you who Mussolini or Balbo are.

I have a feeling the monument will end up coming down, which honestly is fine with me as long as the 2000 year-old artifact is not destroyed as part of the process. Go ahead and put it in a museum. Fine. It does feel an awful lot like this is a solution in search of a problem, though. Balbo Drive being renamed makes sense, only because changing the name of streets to honor different people happens all the time. The street has no connection of any kind to Balbo, so it might as well or might as well not be named for him. The monument, though, was a gift from a country and until now it has entirely avoided any kind of notoriety.

If it makes people feel better it should be removed. The odd part about this is that for 80 years it hasn't made anyone feel anything, and suddenly it's a beacon radiating offense and the support of fascism. Confederate monuments exalt a very specific part of American history that is deeply horrible for a large part of the population. I suppose if America received a gift from Hitler it would have been taken down by now, and an argument can be made that Mussolini should be treated similarly. That's why ultimately I don't care if this comes down or is moved. It doesn't feel like a general community push for change, though, since it's only coming up now. It feels a lot like trying to hop on board with a trend that we as a city aren't really involved with. If this monument is actually offending people with its presence, why didn't we pull it down ten years ago? Go ahead and do it, but let's not kid ourselves about the motive and the timing.

PRESIDENT TARTUFFE

Posted in Rants on August 16th, 2017 by Ed

Satire, sarcasm, and (at least attempts at) social commentary in art are so familiar to us today that it is difficult to remember that there is a time at which it was new and unfamiliar. This is one reason why really old attempts at comedy and satire seem startlingly unfunny to modern audiences. The legendary British architect Sir John Vanbrugh, for example, rose to fame not by drawing buildings but by writing the comedy play The Relapse. It featured characters with names like "Sir John Brute" and "Lord Foppington," in addition to a lecherous character named, I shit you not, "Fondlewife." It feels like being hit over the head with a blunt instrument to read it today. But in 1696, when audiences would have very little exposure to any attempts at satire or social criticism, it came across as not only the peak of cleverness but also as a breath of fresh air.

Molière's Tartuffe (1664) is among the more popular examples of this generation of totally ham-fisted satires today, and at least people who consider themselves kinda fans of theater or the classics have probably seen or read it. Tartuffe is a hypocrite, a faux-pious, thieving, wife-stealing fraud whose charms, long story short, lead to an important and successful but dim-witted gentleman named Orgon falling under his spell. No amount of evidence from his children or friends (who see through Tartuffe easily) can convince Orgon that not only is Tartuffe a piece of crap but that, specifically, he is trying very hard to bone Orgon's wife Elmire. In what feels like it might be a climactic scene, Orgon's son tricks Tartuffe into confessing his love ("love") for Elmire. Yet instead of casting Tartuffe, who pitifully and quite insincerely weeps over his own sinfulness, out of the house, Orgon responds by disowning his son and making Tartuffe the beneficiary of his will. You know. Because it is easier to believe that his son and the evidence right before his eyes are lying than to admit that he was wrong all along about Tartuffe.

It isn't until later, when Orgon is hiding under a table upon which Tartuffe mounts and nearly penetrates his wife, that Orgon finally sees the light. And for brevity I won't even get into the second half "box of blackmail letters about traitors" subplot, but let's just say there's an angle that works there too.

We have been playing a very tiresome and disingenuous game for over a year now with the "moderates" in the Republican Party about Trump. They have stuck their head in the sands and plugged their ears and averted their eyes as every obvious red flag was presented for their consideration repeatedly. Hey, this guy is a sociopath. Hey, this guy is a white supremacist. Hey, I know you and I don't agree about a lot of policy things but I would like to think we at least agree that a president who openly wants to be a dictator and who wants nothing more than constant adulation is a bad thing. Hey, I know you really want that 4% tax cut but maybe electing this lunatic is too high a price to pay. Look at all these things he says. Look at all the evidence. Please, just think about this for a moment.

What we got was every excuse on Earth in repetitious quantity. He doesn't mean what he says, he's just trying to get attention. He only says that to shock you. He's a smart man, look at how rich he is. This is just the campaign, he'll behave differently once he's president. Congress will control him. He's not really like that. It'll be fine. It'll be fine. It'll be fine.

The one positive to come out of the last five deeply alarming days for this country is that there is no longer any cover left for conservatives who want to insist that they are Republicans but you know, reasonable ones, not one of those loony Trump people. As we have transitioned from "It's not fair to smear the alt-right as Nazis" to "OK I guess they are actually Nazis after all" so too have we transitioned from pretending that Trump is somehow unserious or ambivalent about his statements of support for them. As hard as it is to believe that adult human beings saw him retweet white supremacists during the campaign convinced themselves that this did not mean he was a white supremacist, those people exist. Maybe they're dumb, maybe they're intelligent people who fooled themselves. I don't know. But we're done with that now. The president says and tweets white supremacist stuff because he believes white supremacist stuff. He calls torch-waving Nazis wearing swastikas and chanting "Jews will not replace us" "fine people" because he doesn't see anything wrong with their viewpoint. It's what he thinks. Period. It isn't a game or an act or a publicity stunt. This is who he is.

The question is, what now? Conservatives who have spent all this time defending and making excuses for him have a choice. You can pull a Bill Kristol and try to salvage some shred of dignity by throwing in the towel and going the "This Nazi is destroying the party I love" route. Or you can continue to support and provide cover for an actual white supremacist, a course of action that does not prove but at least really really strongly suggests that you are, if not a white supremacist yourself, more than willing to let a white supremacist run the country if you think it will benefit you somehow. But the third option of sticking your head in the sand and pretending he's not really a racist or there is no PROOF he's a racist is no longer available to you. This weekend took that away. Unlike what happened in Charlottesville, this really is an issue with two sides now, and the side you choose is going to say a lot about you.

THAT ARMY-NAVY SURPLUS VEST CARRIES NO LEGAL AUTHORITY

Posted in Rants on August 13th, 2017 by Ed

Easily the most disturbing part of a disturbing Saturday for this country was watching the tame police response to white men marching around as a heavily armed "militia." You have the Governor of a large state explicitly admitting to reporters that the police stood on the sidelines while people were beaten and killed – which I'm pretty sure falls under any definition of a riot – because they claimed they were outgunned by fat white losers in eBay tactical gear.

Really? Because in Ferguson the police were able to summon up almost out of thin air armored vehicles from Operation Iraqi Freedom, snipers, military-caliber rifles, and more body armor than anyone thought the Kevlar industry was capable of producing. Police militarization is nationwide and totally out of control. Yet here the police responsible for handling a literal Nazi rally claimed they just couldn't stand up to someone's unemployed biker uncle.

When black people riot, "We heard they might have guns" is all the justification needed for any level of violence short of air strikes. Gas, skull-cracking riot police, armored vehicles, you name it…all because someone torched the payday loan place in a strip mall. In Charlottesville a person was actually killed by one of the marchers, yet the police did what they always do when white guys decide that they want to play GI Joe while avoiding all that pesky exercise that the military requires: They let their silence and inaction serve as a tacit endorsement.

Are all of the cops who were present simpatico with Nazis? Of course not. But they're more than willing to let them do anything they want in stark contrast to how public gatherings of anything other than right-wingers are treated. If you're a white guy, dressing up like Army Man is enough, in the eyes of law enforcement, to make you some kind of legitimate Citizen Enforcer. Don't tell me there's no issue with policing when black men without guns are routinely shot by police while white men openly carrying loaded rifles in the middle of a civil disturbance walk away without a scratch.

It's almost as if "not sufficiently well armed" is an excuse to justify behavior that functionally endorses what white supremacists are doing. Why did they go lightly armed to a multi-state Nazi rally despite the history of violence from those groups? Whether they do it intentionally or not, police respond to these things markedly differently because hey, it's white boys, they're good boys, we know they don't mean no harm. Maybe some of the weak response is out of support for white supremacy, but I bet 99% of it is the institutionalized racial biases that police in this country simply refuse to look at: a gathering of white people is Not Dangerous, a gathering of black people is.

Stop making excuses. Yeah, Richard Spencer got arrested for 30 whole minutes. Big fucking deal. Yeah, there were police present (standing there watching for the most part). Compare it to the number of people arrested and injured by police at any other public gathering of similar size in this country and the problem will become clear. And once again, remember, one of the mob *literally killed someone* who was there to protest their presence.

Just imagine all the same facts – the guns, the torches, the mob mentality, the murder – if 5,000 black guys took the place of the people who showed up. Tell me how many would have gotten out of there alive, and tell me that the police would have lightly armed themselves and then used that as an excuse to stand around with thumbs in asses.

The National Guard might not even have sufficed for Trump in that case. The regular army would have been called out to kill every last one of the Thugs. And unless you just heard of the United States for the first time today, any part of you eager to deny that is just a voice in your head encouraging you to fool yourself.

BETTER, BUT NEVER GOOD

Posted in Rants on August 3rd, 2017 by Ed

You know how I love metaphors.

From the mid-1990s until the beginning of the recession in 2008 the academic job market was great. I can't speak for every field, but in mine a Ph.D. holder from a reasonably good institution would, if applying broadly, get a tenure-track academic job in a year or two of trying. This is not to say everyone got a great job, but as long as one was not terribly picky it appeared that a job could be found with time and effort.

Then state budgets collapsed and there was a severe retraction. The market went from Great to barely extant for the last few years of the previous decade. We're talking a dozen jobs for hundreds of job searchers. That kind of Bad. Everyone urged calm and predicted that it would recover. "Calm" is a hard thing to come by when you're unemployed. But I landed a temporary job, as some of you may recall, and then after four full years of applying for everything I got a tenure-track job.

The job market has of course gotten better. But here's the thing – it's still bad. It is dawning on people in this profession that the job market may never be Good again. It can only be considered good in comparison to the year(s) in which it was at rock bottom. By the standard of the years in which it was actually good, it remains solidly crap.

That same sinking feeling is creeping into the way I feel about the state of American politics at present. There's little doubt that this is the nadir; it can't get much worse without the system collapsing and being replaced with an entirely new framework. And someday Trump will be gone and things will be Better. Literally anyone, even the other GOP candidates from 2016, would be an improvement over this guy because at the very least they might manage not to get us all killed with their damn Twitter account.

But there's a distinct possibility that this, like the current job market across professions, is just a new normal. We've re-set the bar at an abysmally low level and we can expect politics to be Less Bad in the future, but it is time to face the fact that it will never be Good again. We've normalized some very abnormal things recently and even without Donald Trump there will be a Trumpist candidate in every election for the foreseeable future because nothing successful will avoid endless imitation. He won the nomination and the election, so why wouldn't someone try the same playbook?

Power will continue to flip back and forth between the parties, and if Democrats control some part of Congress in the future that will make things Less Bad. But all of the forces that made Trump possible, especially in the media and in the way Americans self-select twisted versions of reality to suit their own biases, will continue to exist. They'll continue to make following politics unpleasant and continue to keep dumb, spiteful candidates alive and active.

Liberals talk about the New Deal era a lot, almost as much as old white conservatives talk about the "good old days" of the 1950s. We don't even need to look that far in the past to find an era in which some consensus politics could be achieved (Nixon, for instance). As sad as it is, it might be time to face the reality that those days are gone for good, and any future politics can improve marginally upon what we have today without ever getting us close to Good again. Malaise is what a population feels when it sinks in that Better is still pretty bad – and the best they're likely to get.

THROWING IN THE TOWEL

Posted in Rants on July 31st, 2017 by Ed

"Freakish, embarrassing, and all too short." That's Matt Taibbi's summation of the tenure of Anthony Scaramucci in the White House. Last week ("American Heroes Week"!) may have felt like a millennium, but if you can believe it Mooch has only been on the job for something like eight days.

Taibbi's observation is well-phrased but by no means a bold prediction. My reaction to seeing this Mario Cantone with Bone-itis cosplayer for the first time was, "Can we just skip ahead to the part where he's fired?" Whatever thrill there was in watching these people crash and burn is gone; this isn't fun anymore.

If Scaramucci matters, it is as an indication of Trump totally throwing in the towel. Not that he intends to quit or anything, but he appears to be done trying even in the quarter-assed way he may have been attempting to create the illusion of being Serious. This is the kind of person you hire when you not only intend to stop trying, but when you don't particularly care to hide the fact that you are done trying.

The goal at this point appears to be to make this coke-fueled vaudeville act so utterly idiotic that Americans check out altogether, at which point Trump can resume his plans to crash this plane into the side of a mountain so he and his friends can collect on the insurance policy. The journalists who are professionally obligated to cover this all day, every day are going to need treatment for PTSD if this goes on for four years. Watching news and following politics has never been a great joy for most people. It's more of a thing one does because it's good for you, like jogging or eating cauliflower.

Now it is getting to a point at which it is literally too inane to watch. That is not an accident. The point of Anthony Scaramucci is to make your urge to change the channel or close the browser overpowering the moment you see his idiot face or hear one syllable of his fifth-rate Joe Pesci impression. That is why his face is so punchable; the White House wants you to want to punch him. To hate him. To be so disgusted that you feel like you need to be pumped full of thorazine to watch 10 minutes of CNN. And above all they want you to look at Anthony Scaramucci and realize that just as it has gotten worse every day for six months now, it is only going to get worse as time goes on.

THE MYTH OF JOHN McCAIN

Posted in Rants on July 24th, 2017 by Ed

John McCain is the Beltway's wet dream – a man constantly talking about Solutions, bipartisanship, and his oft-troubled conscience. I think he enjoys being idolized by everyone on the Sunday Morning shows, constantly fawned over and taken seriously and never, ever challenged on his record or asked to explain why for all his hand-wringing his voting record is one of a reliable, party line Republican.

McCain and his like-minded compatriot Joe Lieberman sure talk a great deal about doing the right thing. They bring it up, in fact, far more often than they actually do it. And now, a week after giving his usual sanctimonious musings about how badly Congress needs to stop doing all these deeply Troubling things, he's rushing back to Washington to help his party pass a health care bill that not even the Senate has been allowed to see.

This is classic McCain. Everything about him as a politician is a myth. He has made a career out of playing the Moderate character to a tee and he wears the permanently pained expression that lets the Chuck Todds of the world conclude that he is constantly tormented by the battle between good and evil in his mind. He has mastered the Moderate the same way George Will mastered looking like a Smart Person without actually saying things that are smart. But that's it. It's an act. He plays the media like a performer manipulates an audience.

Honestly, it took me a while to recognize this pattern. I felt legitimately bad for McCain in 2008, at least until he almost saddled the country with Sarah Palin. Frankly I hadn't paid a ton of attention to his voting record, and I was familiar with his Senate career mostly in the context of the McCain-Feingold legislation and his statements opposing torture during the G.W. Bush administration. So like everyone else, I thought of him as a Moderate.

It's natural to think that because we are constantly being told he is a Moderate, a voice of reason in a madhouse. But if you pay attention, you start to notice that he does shit like this all the time. He wrings his hands, he looks Troubled, he basks in the glow of some laudatory media coverage, and then he votes for it. Over and over. That's his game. From the outside we can only speculate what he gets out of it – Attention? Validation? Straight ego boost? – but his career is long enough to give us all the evidence we need to establish the pattern.

Look, I feel as sorry for him as I would if my bus driver said he had cancer. I feel badly for everyone with cancer. But look at what he is doing, not what he is saying or what is being said about him. That is the real John McCain, and there's very little Hero there.

GOING BIG

Posted in Rants on July 18th, 2017 by Ed

As their total inability to govern in anything but a cyclone that leaves a trail of destruction in its wake becomes increasingly obvious, the White House and congressional Republicans are engaging in a strategy that can be described as, if nothing else, "bold." They're lying. They've always lied a lot, but they've progressed to lying big, to lying in ways that do not even have a definable reference point in reality.

The sad thing is, were I paid to advise them I would recommend doing exactly that.

The hardcore Trump base has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that they will accept the things he says as the gospel truth. Hell, they accept staggeringly ludicrous things they find in internet comment sections as the truth so long as it tells them something they're inclined to believe. Liberals and the media, in contrast, point out the lies and let loose with streams of invective. And it must be dawning on Trump that these reactions are not affected by the magnitude of the lie. And if you're going to expose yourself to the risk that lying might cost you something in terms of political capital, you might as well lie big. Real big.

That whole "bring back coal" bullshit isn't working out? Whatever – just say you made up 50,000 coal jobs even though that's more people than the entire coal industry employs. Republicans can't pass a bill to save their souls? Just say it's the Democrats' fault (it doesn't have to make any sense). Caught in a web of lies with unseemly Russian operatives? It was…uh, a Clinton-Obama setup! Health care bill is an embarrassing flop? Hell, just assume your idiot supporters don't know who controls the Senate and blame it on the Democrats.

These aren't the standard political lies that rely on stretching the truth, cherry picking the data, fudging interpretations of events in creative ways, or offering partial truth in place of the whole thing. This is fantasy stuff. This is stuff made up out of thin air. We're accustomed to things like the Bush administration relying on an extremely selective reading of dubious information to justify the Iraq War, or elected officials lying about personal sex scandals as long as they believe they can get away with it. We don't have experience, though, with Russian-style "Make up your own reality" lying, at least not from the White House and not on this scale.

The sad fact, again, is that this makes perfect sense strategically. If your base will believe literally anything as long as you say it, there's really no incentive to hold back.

This new political reality in which there are no consequences for lying as blatantly and boldly as shame will allow is not going to turn out well. Good things will never come of this. The discomforting question, though, is what anyone can do about it at this point. It is already here.

WE ARE NIHILISTS; WE BELIEVE IN NOTHING

Posted in Rants on July 17th, 2017 by Ed

When the latest terrible version of the terrible Republican "alternative" to the ACA finally died its inevitable death Monday evening with the twin GOP defections of Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, it seemed an opportune moment for reflection. The party leaders tried everything to pass this POS bill, with McConnell resorting to, take your pick, either lying to his own caucus and telling them that the Medicaid cuts would not happen, or admitting that the bill contained no "reform" as conservatives understand it. They couldn't pass it despite being in the majority.

That might suggest starting over, perhaps by asking, "Why didn't we have an alternative ready? Why are we voting on some crap thrown together over a weekend?" and building a new bill from the ground up. When Medicare/Medicaid cuts are so substantial that even some pretty hard right Senators balk, you might have a tear-down rather than a simple remodel on your hands.

Instead, within seconds of the Lee/Moran announcement the Freedom Caucus came up with this:

As dumb as Freedom Caucus types tend to be, they can't realize how clearly they are demonstrating the shortcomings of their own ideology here. From the perspective of practical politics, the reason they were able to pass bills to "repeal Obamacare" a million times was that the votes were entirely symbolic. They knew there was exactly zero chance Obama would sign, so it was a consequence-free vote for congressional Republicans. It was, in essence, a stunt. A serious but not-serious bill. It was never going to become law.

By resurrecting that idea now that the GOP has the majority, they're recognizing that the Republican Party is incapable of creating anything. They can repeal, cut, obstruct, filibuster, defund, and grandstand. They can talk, feign moral outrage, dog-whistle, and mud sling. The one thing they cannot do, as we now can all see plainly, is write a bill that makes policy.

It is a mob chanting "no," a cargo cult of nihilists hell-bent on tearing down and destroying, but when they are handed the keys that they ostensibly want, they freeze up like deer in headlights. They dislike everyone and everything, including (or perhaps especially) each other. When forced to come together and agree upon something, even among themselves, they are incapable of doing it.

So they retreat to the comfort of the one and only thing that they know how to do: opposing. Even with all of the institutions of power in their control they can't overcome their own individual and collective obstreperousness. That's the problem when all of your goals are variations on "Destroy this thing I don't like." Focus on that for a handful of decades and one day you'll find that you can't recall what you do like.

BEGIN BY HOARDING SUPPLIES

Posted in Rants on July 16th, 2017 by Ed

Well, the end of the world is upon us. Bill Kristol made a good point.

If there is one thing this President is not, it is complex. He and his motivations are baldy, even embarrassingly, obvious. As even some people in the conservative media are starting to figure out, his entire anti-media, anti-intel barrage since being elected has all been an attempt to ready his base for the information that he and everyone involved with his campaign knows is going to come out. When you know that it is going to be revealed that intelligence professionals have evidence of collusion with Russia on a grand scale, the only play you have is to convince people that everything intelligence professionals say is a lie and oh by the way the media reporting the story is lying too.

This is Chapter 1 of the authoritarian playbook; only I can be trusted. The elites and institutions are scared of me because I am so powerful and honest that they feel threatened, so they will lie to destroy me. Believe nothing and no one except me.

(It's also how cults operate, but that's tangential at the moment. Or is it.)

As Kristol somehow notes astutely, what I have been saying for six months now appears to be true: this is just going to get worse and worse. The dribble of damning information will never stop. Six months is enough to establish a decent understanding of the pattern, and it is (with respect to my old man, a career prosecutor) a very obvious Prosecutor Trick that Trump will never, ever stop falling for. First, present Fact A. Give Trump a week to lie about it in an attempt to explain it away. Reveal Fact B, proving that everything said in response to A was a lie. Give him another week to tie himself to a made-up story. Reveal Fact C. Repeat.

Works every time, at least on people who are wildly overconfident or extremely stupid.

I tend not to believe in large conspiracies – collective action is too difficult to coordinate for most conspiracy theories to be plausible. I don't think, then, that there is one person or a small group of people coordinating the release of this information. But the revelations about Trump's Russian ties do feel eerily regular, like a conveyor belt that neither speeds up nor slows down. Like clockwork, every week brings a new piece of information. Ample time is provided for Trump to throw temper tantrums and make up a bunch of garbage. Then the next one arrives just as the media furor begins to abate.

One thing you will not hear Bill Kristol say, though, is that 2017 is the year we can put to rest any pretensions the GOP had left of having any integrity as a group. It is abundantly clear that they would have strapped Obama into the electric chair on the steps of the Capitol with 1% as much evidence as there now is regarding Trump, yet all we hear are excuses. Ultimately, I still believe that even without principles or integrity, self-preservation is enough to motivate some of these people. Eventually. A House Republican in this era is the perfect example of the person who will do the right thing (and expect to be lauded for it) only after literally every single other option has been exhausted.