Why your right-wing uncle is so cut off from reality

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Following up the prior post: Sondland today did indeed lay out some testimony that must’ve had White House lawyers reach for the Rolaids more than once, but that is not what this post is about. It’s about how the top story of the news cycle gets rolled out at various sites. It’s about how one flavor of site is not like the others, and really is about why a third of the country has been conditioned to believe outlandish made-up nonsense. Hint: No, it’s not because of Mark Zuckerberg.

First, let’s look at some mainstream sites’ headlines. All follow the old-school media model of trying to play it fair and, other than a national paper, represent communities varying from purple to deep-red. From left to right, we have Newsday (Long Island, NY), USA Today, the Kansas City Star, and the Salt Lake Tribune.

The verbiage differs, but all say that Sondland implicated Trump and/or his lieutenants like Rudy and Pompeo.

Next, let’s look at some unabashadly liberal outlets: (L-R) Huffpost, New York Magazine, vox.com, and The Daily Beast.

These guys all jazzed up their headlines (Sings! Damning! Threw under the bus!) and throw in more than a little editorializing, some of it premature (is it really “the ballgame”? C’mon). Yet, when it comes to the facts of the testimony, they do not deviate substantially from the mainstream outlets on the facts of the case.

Now let’s take a look at the conservative press, and by that, I do not mean The Bulwark. Here we see (L) the NY Post, (upper R) Breitbart, (mid-R) the Washington Examiner, and (lower R) the president’s favorite channel.

You may be forgiven if you feel like you’re receiving news from some alternate dimension. Two of the sites fail to mention Sondland at all on their front pages when he’s the news of the day, preferring “but Hunter Biden” and/or the tried-and-true “but Obama.” One tries to spin Sondland as a win, and finally, Fox goes with “We may never know the truth here.”

This… THIS is why MAGA is divorced from the rest of the country. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t writing the nonsense stories your Trump-worshiping relative keeps sharing on Facebook. He isn’t forcing anyone to push stories from sites notable for their ads selling gold. Zuck’s not blameless — his algorithms create an echo chamber for his users, as does Twitter’s — but on the other hand, that seems to be precisely what people want.

And so MAGA voters do not want to be troubled with information that deviates from the reassuring “alternative facts” pushed by their safe spaces like FoxNews. In their world, Trump literally *always* wins, and every story is about some smug liberal getting comeuppance or just how much of a victim the most powerful man in the world is, or similar rot.

Furthermore, the people who work for these sites know what their readers want. They get avalanches of hate mail for raising even the slightest criticism of Dear Leader; such heresy can and will also cost them their jobs — sometimes immediately.

If you’re a conservative freelance writer trying to squeak out a living in an increasingly precarious economy for your profession, or a FoxNews line producer uncomfortable with what’s happened to your workplace, or a popular right-wing podcaster or YouTuber since before the rise of Trump, you are under enormous pressure to fellate the orange schlong like everyone around you. I mention sites like The Federalist selling out, but the simple fact remains that if they did not submit before Trump, they would have been shut down and their jobs eliminated. Prostitute your and your magazine’s ideals before the bronze man, however, and the lure of big-time book deals dangle before you.

I talk about what happens to a democracy when a large chunk of voters wish to eliminate the democracy. Now we also know what happens to the news industry when a large chunk of people do not wish to hear the real news, ever.

The stupidest authoritarian timeline

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Word is that one of the president’s men — no, not some agent of the deep state, but a guy specifically hired by the Ochre Joker — will confirm the quid pro quo demanded of Ukraine to Congress today.

What will Republicans do? Admit their error? Say that, ok, our Great Leader made a mistake for once in his life? Or will they do what they always do and character-assassinate Gordon Sondland for the crime of not perjuring himself to Congress? Do you even have to guess?

Remember, it is 2019. As just one example of just how asinine this benighted era has become:

donnie

Yes, it sure would be bad if a deep state operative in the impeachment hoax used canned catch phrases for the benefit of do-nothing Democrats like shifty Adam Schiff and the fake news media. Why, this witch hunt with started with its fake whistleblower is nothing but presidential harassmentThe failing New York Times may not like it, but REAL patriots just want to drain the swamp and would never resort to mere catch phrases. Now then. Let’s put on our red hats that have just random non-catchy words on them to show our support!

idiocracy president

Idiocracy was a prophecy.

Of course, things like hypocrisy, nepotism, and the Big Lie technique weren’t exactly unknown in Washington in the distant history of Before Trump. The stupidity of our current era just makes them simple enough for a slow-learning second grader to pick out. Hillary would have hidden her bullshit within mazes of plausible deniability within crystal palaces of Newspeak nonsense words hidden in forests of Washingtonian winks and nods. Fredo Trump there just tweets it out because at this point, shit, why not? This is the same guy who accuses Hunter Biden of nepotism with a straight face.

Donnie Jr. and his father never fail to be entertaining, at least, in their buffoonery. Unfortunately, what’s behind the clown show is as meaningless as a typical episode of The Hills or a McDonalds burger wrapper crumpled up in the gutter.

The worst thing about Trumpism is how boring it is.


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If Rep. Matt Gaetz, perhaps Trump’s most obsequious bootlick in the House, walked up and decked Rep. Adam Schiff in the face, he’d be lionized as an eternal hero by the New Right. The gif would lead every Trumpist site. He’s be their second-most beloved person of all time.

If Schiff punched Gaetz, he’d be condemned, censured, and stripped of committee assignments. By Pelosi.

And yet, it is the right that is convinced the left is amoral and is out to destroy them by any means possible.

I think about this daily.

What a NYC public school horror story from a liberal says — about liberals

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One interesting split between the worlds of liberal and conservative thought are the freedom each allows to question their own side’s norms, institutions, or leaders. To be a conservative means to not ever question that side’s shibboleths, lest one face dismissal with a snarl word such as traitor, socialist, or — worst of all — NeverTrump.

Liberals, though, have very few such sacred cows on their own side that would invite a similar response. I can count off received wisdom on abortion rights and trans ideology, in addition to blatant racism of course, as the only third rails that, if touched, invoke automatic cancellation. Everything else, from thoughts on race and feminism and socialism, to the other three letters of LGBT, to leaders such as Sanders and Biden, to various liberal institutions such as public-sector labor unions, to even flirting with MAGA a la Glenn Greenwald and Tulsi Gabbard, are fair game. To be sure, there will always be various subfactions who will react with spittle-flecked rage should you come for their object of worship, as anyone who has interacted with a Bernie Bro online may attest — but you will also have plenty of people who have your back. It’s just part of the chaos of the side that’s baked in. Get four random liberals together, and you’ll come away with six endorsements for president.

So while writer George Packer will assuredly raise some peoples’ blood pressures by coming at that old liberal institution known as the New York City public school system, he will also have the support of the pro-charter-school moderate liberals like Jon Chait and Matt Yglesias, who are probably at this moment nodding at every sentence of his piece.

NYC_DOE_LogoHe ties in the school system’s problems with that poisonous idea of “meritocracy” — which, in America at least, is anything but. However, I was struck at his scorn of modern lefty nonsense such as “critical race theory” which is increasingly corrupting our schools, due to the efforts of Bill de Blasio, liberal education schools and, above all, Richard Carranza.

Standardized tests started being left behind at his kids’ public school, as were even grades. The school stopped caring about fundamentals like times tables, long division, or basic American civics in favor of whichever trivial political humbug was the fad of the moment. “It was an education in activism, and with no grounding in civics, activism just meant speaking out,” Packer writes. Students began to become segregated by race in class, in a manner that George Wallace would have surely approved of. Unisex bathrooms then were instituted without parental consent — again, because that had suddenly become the cause of the moment on progressive social media. The educators at the school sound like they had the religious conviction in their own righteousness of your typical anti-vaxx zealot.

Yes, some hardened lefties will dismiss this piece as just another rant against political correctness and/or teachers’ unions by some racist white neolib, no doubt on the remaining Koch’s payroll. But here’s the thing: Packer will not be cancelled. He will not be driven out of the ranks of liberals. He will not lose his job with The Atlantic, he will not be banished from polite city society, and he will not show up at that final destination of all truly cancelled people, the Tucker Carlson show.

For even within NYC’s Department of Education, this guy’s school sounds like a serious outlier. Most schools do not go “unrated” due to boycotts of supposedly racist standardized exams. The vast majority still have bathrooms for boys and girls (in fact, Packer concedes the DOE actually intervened and forced his school to have only one unisex bathroom). Most parents and even most educators, even at this late date, still care more about kids’ educations than they do about their indoctrination.

I know this partly because my own first-grader is in a New York City public school. Like the school Packer writes of, it is quite diverse and majority-minority. No, you won’t find many Trump voters among the parents or staff. But almost everyone takes the statewide exams, and the school remains among the top flight of the district. He learns the three r’s instead of learning to check his privilege or that gender is a construct. Parents are acutely aware of the peculiar NYC high school admissions process their children will eventually face, one that is as competitive as the college admissions race is everywhere else — and whatever their politics, they know that empty posturing about LGBT oppression won’t get their offspring into Bronx Science.

Liberals can’t agree about almost anything. They certainly would never agree on how to run a school.

Yes, de Blasio and Carranza would like to end all that, and turn each and every NYC public school into the uniform little wokeness factories so easily parodied by the right, where math and civics and Shakespeare are just racist products of the patriarchy and the only truths are what Twitter accounts with red roses in their handles are parroting on a given day. But given the fierce local backlash they face each step in their way, and given the competition of the charter schools that remain stoutly defended by Gov. Cuomo, their progress remains limited at best. At the school Packer writes of, after all, the wokeness agenda was the product of local administrators, not citywide DOE policy. The stark differences between schools that are mere blocks away are why he tried to do his due diligence to begin with. A system as massive and as unwieldly as the NYC public school system does not lend itself to Carranza’s command-and-control mentality, and each school’s quality remains determined most of all by the local parents, teachers, and administrators, as it has been for generations.

That could change, and if you see me post about my son’s new charter or private school, that means the gruesome twosome’s transformative agenda has succeeded. But I don’t expect it to, certainly not before de Blasio leaves office. In fact, I expect rolling back Carranza’s “reforms” to be part of future mayor Corey Johnson’s plans, as he is already signalling. In the end, while Packer’s experiences are certainly interesting, take his piece as you would any profile of just one or two NYC public schools — something that only tells you about those one or two schools. And be glad that liberals, unlike conservatives, are still allowed to stand up to their own side’s political leaders and agendas.

Women’s sports can absolutely take off, if given a chance

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rapinoe

I’m not sure which was the US women’s soccer team’s bigger triumph this year: winning it all in the World Cup again, or news that they’ve recently overtaken the less-fortunate men’s side in total revenue. After another exciting run cap by the first parade down NYC’s Canyon of Heroes since the Giants won it all clear back in 2012, light bulbs began turning on over heads at the other women’s leagues.

Why just sit there and accept second-banana status behind the men?

Now, you can’t talk long about women’s sports long before some conservative chimes in with one of their patented Punchable Smirks: “But women just are worse at sports than men.”

And, you know what? It’s true! If you look at the raw numbers, men can run faster, hit harder, throw farther and jump higher. Serena Williams herself, arguably the most famous American tennis star of either gender, conceded the incredibly obvious point:

“The men are a lot faster and they serve harder, they hit harder. It’s just a different game. I love to play women’s tennis. I only want to play girls, because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

So that’s that. Since men can easily beat a comparable women’s team, there’s no reason to watch women’s sports, except that reasoning falls apart when you also realize any college football team would get absolutely massacred by the worst team in the NFL. Even Clemson or ‘Bama would get rolled by the lowly Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills or Hue Jackson-era Cleveland Browns. Same thing with Duke or Kansas men’s basketball squaring off against the clown-show Knicks.

I guess nobody watches college sports then, right?

There is a major opportunity here, as the USWNT has proven decisively.

One of the perennial challenges of men’s sports has been attracting female viewers, especially those who aren’t just supporting their husband’s fandom. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, women’s sports has had the reverse problem. The WNBA can’t figure out how to put male eyes on screens or male asses in seats. But another problem: they don’t get enough female fans to make up the difference, perhaps because women aren’t interested in basketball to begin with. But there’s no reason for them to naturally care about soccer either, and the USWNT has taken care of the fan gap quite nicely by dominating the sport (as the US men regularly faceplant). They’ve built a fandom that will last, even after the Rapinoe squad fades into memory. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve got girls interested in the sport. Youth involvement in sports, besides generating more talent over time, also generates more viewership — if you played baseball as a kid, you’ll be more likely to watch MLB as an adult than the average chess club member. In my opinion, girls playing tennis remains the biggest reason for women’s tennis’ unique legacy in this country for being at least in the neighborhood of their male counterparts in terms of viewership.

Other women’s leagues — basketball, golf, hockey and, yes, Legends Football (whose players play hard despite the Hooter’s-approved outfits) can learn from the USWNT, get adult viewers, and more importantly, get girls into the sport, maybe from some combination of exciting dynasty teams (think UConn), better marketing, and the best players getting the Serena-level coverage they deserve. Tennis and now soccer prove there’s no reason for the women’s side to lag behind, any more there’s any reason for college football fandom to fall behind the pros.

The slide to fascism, the hatred of liberalism, and #MAGA voters

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Kevin Williamson — a writer whom, admittedly, is not to be trusted — has a column out warning against “send her back” and the desire of Trump voters to strip the citizenship of Rep. Ilhan Omar. Her crimes? A) being a brown person born in Somalia, b) her lefty politics and c) being an Israel-obsessed Jew-baiter. All of these things are true: whether c) is bad should not be a matter of controversy; whether b) is bad should by definition be a matter of controversy as much as conservative politics should be, and thinking a) is bad is as contemptible as Omar’s risible anti-semitism.

But none of that should be germane to her citizenship, which is just as valid as the president’s, or his foreign-born wife’s. That is not something the federal government can revoke, nor should it ever be able to. Mass murderers do not lose their citizenship, and neither do pedophiles. And neither has Robert Hanssen, one of the worst traitors in American history.

None of that matters to Trump voters. Not established legal precedent, nor established moral precedent observed over the centuries, even in the face of far worse threats to the country than a liberal freshman congresswoman. No, they just don’t care; they hate lefties such as Omar with such intensity that not only is every election a Flight 93 election; every day on social media must be viewed as a to-the-death struggle against the terrorists. As I once warned years before the rise of Trump: the ultimate threat to America, or any republic really, is what happens when a sizable enough bloc of legal voters vote specifically to end that republic.

The trigger for this particular discussion was the “send her back” chant, which seems to have replaced “lock her up” as #MAGA’s go-to motto. And, no, it wasn’t just meaningless words, not when the president himself is fomenting this specific “go back to your country” antagonism towards Omar — as well as three other congresswomen of color who were all born in America. What’s a chant today could easily become the official position of the White House, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy next year — if enough of their voters demand it. And all it takes is a trip to the comments section of Williamson’s article to prove the point. (It does not appear to allow linking to individual comments.)

For citizenship to be truly valuable, loss must be a possibility. Otherwise the bad apples deflate the value and tarnish the brand. And Surprise Surprise – federal law provides for a number of “potentially expatriating acts”.”

“I have nothing but contempt for Kevin’s puerile and sentimental paean to citizenship…. Words like blood, soil, and memory make the ~bien pensants~ go nuts. Throw in religion, too. These sorts of things characterize successful cultures. Simply put, they mean harmony. Diversity — beyond a certain point — means disorder, hostility, and violence.”

“Put it this way: is there *any* behavior so “anti-citizen”-ish that it warrants public shaming like DT’s, or worse? Traditionally, the answer is No. But: when was the last time a BDS (that is, a blatantly anti-semitic) motion was submitted to Congress?”

king trump

This meme is not used by Trump’s detractors. It’s shared by his *supporters.*

You get the idea. This among the handing out of smelling salts for Williamson’s gross blasphemy against the God-Emperor (which, on Williamson’s part, had been extremely muted in between his rehiring at NRO and now).

The specific invocation of blood and soil is, of course, straight out of fascism, and by that I don’t mean the codeine-fascism of Franco or the Vicodin-fascism of Mussolini. I mean the pure-cut black-tar heroin-fascism of good ol’ you-know-who. “Blood and soil” isn’t just coming from comments-section trolls, either. It was chanted in Charlottesville; it is referenced favorably by mainstream sites like The American Conservative. The concept stains everything recently written by NY Post op-ed chief Sohrab Ahmari, who, like many MAGA converts, loves nothing more than being on the winning side. Deplorable voters are just that done with tolerating no-good liberals sharing space in their country.

And what has provoked this roiling hatred, this utter spite among a third of our population towards anyone and everyone left of center, that makes them want to end democracy altogether and hand total power to Donald Trump? Has a socialist country attacked us? Have California and New York seceded from the union and taken up arms? Are lefty terrorists going on shooting and bombing rampages, as they did in the late ’60s and early ’70s?

No. It’s just that some liberal politicians, pundits, and college students sometimes say stupid or offensive things. But more importantly: talk radio, FoxNews, and the internet are here to tell these voters how much they have to hate these people.

Because liberal politicians, pundits, and college students have been saying stupid or offensive things forever. As have their conservative counterparts. So what? We are in a period of remarkable stability and prosperity. Crime is way, way down from the 1980s. Economic numbers are way up. And while our endless military actions continue, they have leveled off quite a bit since the height of the Iraq occupation. The Boomer Republicans who make up the core of #MAGA have never had it better. Yet they hate their fellow Americans who vote blue with such an intensity that they fantasize about breaking up the country by Article V Convention. They so believe that literally any and everything must be on the table when dealing with Democrats, that come this time next year, they will be calling for their beloved Leader to directly intervene in the electoral process and stuff the ballot boxes. Set your watch to it.

Four years after that, they will call for him to “run” for a third term. Or else, perhaps, hand the regime to his successor, Donald Jr. Because that is what they want. They do not want to be citizens of a republic. They want to be subjects of the Trump Dynasty.

Williamson correctly observes the parallels to the end of the Roman Republic. But at least the Romans allowed one of the greatest statesmen and leaders of all time to take over, one that, at least while he lived, brought stability, order, and economic success to the strife-riven former Republic. Sure, the bill eventually came due when the empire fell into the hands of the Neros and Caligulas, as all empires, monarchies and dictatorships must. But at least they had the short-term wisdom to hand power to Augustus Caesar.

We’re handing power to the only buffoon who could lose at the casino business during Atlantic City’s boom years.

Every 80 years, America faces an existential crisis. Around 1780, it was the Revolution itself. Just after 1860, we had another one, and then again just after 1940. It is now almost 2020. It’s going to get a whole lot worse, as this time, we don’t have a president trying to save the union.

As a physician, I see no rational choice other than fundamental change to the system.

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A bit of a rambling post here, so forgive me.

First, I would invite all rock-ribbed anti-socialists to read the replies to this Twitter post. Then think about what you would tell these average Americans. Not Pelosi, not Schumer, not AOC, not the fake news liberal media or any of the other usual bugaboos. What would you tell these normal, regular people when they ask you why it must remain like this?

health care costs

This is insane. Completely insane.

We all know how unhappy regular people are with our current disaster of a healthcare “system,” from liberals to ardent #MAGA conservatives. (Again, I don’t mean members of congress or cable-news hosts who don’t have to directly worry about any of this. I mean regular people.) After all, hospitals and insurance companies don’t check your voter registration before dumping massive bills on you. People are in such fear of hospital bills that they ignore their symptoms, staying away until it’s too late. Or else they ration their insulin with their exponential, totally inexcusable cost hikes.

But enough with the horror stories — does anyone actually *like* the way it is in this country?

There are two main constituencies who do, though. One are the stake-holders in large for-profit hospital chains, insurance companies, and others who directly profit off patients’ misery, as well as the Republican politicians they generously donate to.

The other are people 65 and older.

Think of a retired, Trump-loving right-winger who is on Medicare. Ask them if they’d be willing to forego their government-sponsored plan. After all, it’s the ideologically consistent thing to do. See how far you get with that conversation.

The only workable solution is Medicare for all.

I’m not a lefty or a socialist. I’m anything but one of these nutcases holding up an Assad-clone like Nicolas Maduro as a hero of the worker, believe me. But I do not see any other option that is both achievable, and also an actual improvement for regular people.

Now, for Medicare for all to work, everyone’s taxes would skyrocket, no question. But here’s what they don’t want you to know: overall, the tax hike would be substantially less than the money you get back, whether it’s in your paycheck, or the money you’re no longer paying for an ACA plan, on top of all the thousands you may stand to pay out in outrageous copays, deductibles, and those surprise hospital fees unscrupulous hospital doctors and employees do their best to conceal from you until after your discharge. No more worrying about sending your spouse and kids to financial ruin if you decide to get that mysterious lump in your breast checked out.

Or let’s say you’re an employer, a stern believer in free enterprise and paying your fair share. Just imagine if you were no longer responsible for your peoples’ health care plans. What a colossal burden off the bottom line! Also, your people would be happier and healthier without you lifting a finger — and as a boss, you must be acutely aware of the effect of morale in the workplace.

“But muh socialism,” some of your buddies you rode with to the last Trump rally admonish you. Oh, please. This from the party that wants the federal government to take over Facebook and Twitter because they were mean to Alex Jones. Who’s more socialist, Trump and his wanting every private company that displeases him to answer to the feds, or the people who just want a health care system vaguely resembling the rest of the industrialized world? I dunno about you, but if I had to choose between two systems the government should intervene with, I think I’d go with access to hospitals, clinics and pharmacies over my Twitter account.

And the thing is, M4A isn’t even socialist in the slightest! I realize that conservatives increasingly use the term “socialist” the same way they use “fake news”: to just mean something they don’t like. But socialism means government ownership, and under M4A, the government *does not take over a single hospital or clinic.* What they’re thinking of is the British NHS, which M4A is emphatically not. Instead, all medical enterprises, from solo docs to massive hospital chains, remain privately owned (assuming they already were beforehand). All that’s changed is that instead of billing a constellation of insurers as well as the patient, they bill one entity: Medicare. Which is where the term “single-payer” comes from.

The people who don’t want the system to change are the people profiting off of it. Plain and simple. And most conservatives are not executives at Cigna or at Kaiser. Most conservatives are as screwed by the system as everyone else.

M4A is not socialism. This is not the Green New Deal, this is not a $15 minimum wage, this is not electing AOC president-for-life. If anything, this is taking away a key campaign issue from the Democrats. Stop listening to Rush, Hannity and Trump who all have their personal health care needs taken care of for life. Start listening to your own friends and family. Do what’s best for you and yours. Vote for Medicare for all.

How to get caught up with the MCU in time for Endgame

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So the worst has happened. You’ve been able to avoid the biggest movie franchise in history so far. You ignored the Avengers hype, you were able to dodge the Captain America movies, you even passed on Black Panther. But now, finally, a friend or loved one has lowered the boom and is dragging you to see Avengers: Endgame over your loud and frequent protestations.

The problem is, with almost two dozen movies already lodged into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, walking into Endgame cold is like starting watching, say, Breaking Bad from the middle of season 4. You’d have no idea who these people are, where they are coming from, or whose power is punching really hard and whose power is meth. Endgame won’t just expect you to have seen Infinity War (Endgame was originally named “Infinity War Part 2”). It will draw from most or all movies from the MCU, from Iron Man 1 on.

On the other hand, you don’t want to torture yourself with 48 hours (or whatever we’re up to) worth of superhero movies, so here’s a quick how-to on getting caught up and without resorting to plot synopses from Wikipedia. These are not only the most important movies in the MCU’s world-building; they are also among its best, so don’t worry: you won’t be steered into stinkers like Thor: Dark World.

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