I know everyone has tight budgets but I think we really need to think long and hard about the news organizations and civic institutions we really ought to support, in a monetary way.  We try to do our best to make a contribution in our own way, but let’s go out and support those working on protecting our freedoms on a daily basis.

My plug for today:  Please subscribe to the New York Times and the Washington Post.  I think we can all recognize that they’ve done some amazing reporting lately.  We should reward them and support their online subscription model, whatever the drawbacks, to enable them to keep fighting the good fight.

Click below to subscribe (we receive no referral fee).

Any ideas for other worthy organizations to support?  Please leave in the comments.


It was exactly one month ago that Donald Trump gave his quasi-State Of The Union. It was a glorious occasion that will be celebrated for generations to come as a legendary piece of oratory a bold, visionary statement of policy that time the theater critic media lost their minds and turned themselves into a parody of a parody. Let’s commemorate the occasion by mocking the pundits who thought this was the start of a beautiful presidency:

Honestly, this is probably going to be the peak of the Trump Administration. Hope they fucking enjoyed it.

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Last night I predicted this (h/t Anne Laurie):

“I was asked if I would be interested in going over to the White House for a meeting,” Lynch said in a statement to the Globe. “They said they were looking for ‘moderate’ Democrats – which I am. But under the circumstances I felt like they were trying to divide our party so I declined the invitation.”

“My feeling is that the Trump White House has taken a ‘scorched earth’ approach so far,” he added. “I am usually someone who looks for middle ground, but Mr. Trump’s opening position, especially as reflected in his budget, has been so extreme that there is no middle ground. It’s a non-starter for me.”

Lynch isn’t even a Blue Dog (though he is in many ways more of a Blue Dog than the current Blue Dogs), but looking at the membership list of that august organization, it’s stunning just how few of the members actually represent Republican districts. Arguably only Collin Peterson and Josh Gottheimer actually do, and a couple others represent essentially toss-up districts with a slight GOP lean. The rest represent Democratic districts, some marginal, many safe indeed. This differs from a decade ago, when you had dozens of Blue Dogs representing districts where Republicans had double-digit advantages. They’re all gone now. Honestly, just looking at it, it’s not clear what membership in the caucus actually means anymore, other than as a signifier of moderation that probably doesn’t even register with voters who have no idea what the group is. There’s not a real coherent identity to the membership like there used to be. Frustrating as it is to liberals that the organization just won’t die formally (and in fact grew after the last elections), in the most important sense it’s already dead, as aside from Peterson and Gottheimer none of them really have much latitude to freelance and stab the party in the back if they’re so inclined. And no small number of these folks have been the subject of fantasies of primary challenges by the left for ages, which would definitely happen if they worked with Trump (and which would probably be successful).

“Outreach to moderate Democrats” is going to be harder than it looks. But, on the other hand, Trump and Bannon have certainly DISRUPTED THE SYSTEM, so bonanza! Meanwhile, Trump’s going to war with his party two months into his presidency. That’ll turn out well.

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The Adverts were part of the initial wave of British punk, part of the same scene as The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, etc. They’re not as well-known and as a result they’re definitely underappreciated. The Great British Mistake is one of their best songs, and though the title is good for a laugh in our present context, keep in mind this was written in 1977:

The great British mistake was looking for a way out,
Was getting complacent, not noticing
The pulse was racing.
The mistake was fighting.
The change, was staying the same.
It couldn’t adapt so it couldn’t survive,
Something had to give.
The people take a downhill slide into the gloom.
Into the darn recesses of their minds. […]

String out the drip-feed, they’re losing their world,
They’re losing their hard boys and magazine girls.
Advert illegal, T.V. as outlaw, motive as spell.
They’ll see the books burn. They’ll be 451,
It’s people against things and not against each other.
Out of the pre-pack, into the fear, into themselves.
They’re the great British mistake.
The genie’s out of the bottle, call in the magician.
They didn’t mean to free him, devil behind them,
devil in the mirror, chained to their right hands.
They’re the great British mistake.
They’ll have to come to terms now, they’ll take it out somehow.
They’ll blame it all on something.
The British mistake – when will it be over?
How can they avoid it?

And the punchline:

A little over nine months after British voters chose to withdraw from the European Union, Britain took a decisive — and likely irreversible — step Wednesday toward ending a partnership that has bound the country to the continent for nearly half a century.

With the simple handoff of a letter in Brussels, the British government became the first to trigger Article 50 — the mechanism for nations to exit the European Union.

“This is a historic moment from which there can be no turning back,” Prime Minister Theresa May announced to a momentarily hushed House of Commons, before debate later turned rowdy.

The one thing I don’t get is why the vast majority of Labour members voted for Brexit even though only 1/3 of their party did (and at least some of that was probably motivated by hatred of long-forgotten ex-PM David Cameron). Given how close the numbers were, you’d think the stronger position would be to avoid any involvement in the Article 50 process on the entirely reasonable basis that if it blows up and harms Britain, that harm would not have their fingerprints on it. Is there a stupider political argument than “this should be above politics”? I don’t think so, and yet they seemed to fall for it. Given how the polls have gone, they seem to have lost both leavers to the Tories and remainers to the Liberal Democrats, leading to hilariously poor polling that makes it not impossible the party is in a death spiral.

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I’ll have a nice long post next week with my take on the dynamics of all this budget/shutdown/debt ceiling business (contain yourselves), but one thing that I think I need to make clear is that Trump cannot just get “some Democrats” to sign off on something the same way that Dubya did. The Blue Dogs of that era simply do not exist anymore: for one thing there are fewer of them in absolute numbers, and the ones that remain have profoundly different incentive structures than the personally popular red-district Democrats with tons of seniority who stayed in office by bringing home the bacon, as they say. Your John Tanners and Jim Marshalls, in other words. The incentives for them to cut deals with Bush were overwhelming: nobody to the left of them could be elected in their districts and their positions depended on a steady stream of goodies to tout, which Bush was happy to provide in exchange for votes on his bills. (This absolutely infuriated liberals, by the way. The epithet I remember was “Bush Dogs,” which was almost clever.) Making ideological waves was not going to help them at all. Getting new high school football stadiums or what have you, however, would. You still see this sort of politics in some places, like Alaska, though in that case it’s Republicans that benefit. But it’s mostly dead, the casualty of the 2010 midterms and subsequent redistricting most directly, but in a larger sense, the real killer was partisan sorting. People are less and less willing to put up with representatives whose politics they don’t like because they bring home the bacon. Aside from maybe just Joe Manchin, Democrats have little incentive to work with Trump, unless they’re simply vain and stupid. Even the red state ones will rely on liberal Dems in their states to turn out in 2018. Manchin is the exception here given how his state has changed since his last election, I really wonder how that math will work out for him. But even Sens. Heitkamp of North Dakota and Donnelly of Indiana have been more inclined to fight Trump than to placate him. I doubt that House Dems will be much different.

Think about someone like Jim Cooper, a Democrat representing a safe D district (Nashville, in this case) in a red state who is a bit to the right of most Democrats. He mostly keeps his jobs because he’s a talented politician, but he’s always susceptible to primary challenges because Nashville a Democratic city. The seat is one of two in Tennessee that Democrats win, the other being Memphis, which has a much more left-wing representative in Steve Cohen. Somebody to the left of Cooper could win the seat with no problem. (Come to think of it, that’s a race that Ashley Judd could actually win, as that’s where she lives.) Voting for a Trump budget that decimates programs popular with Democrats in order to secure a few goodies wouldn’t bolster Cooper, it would end his career. Trump is hated by Democrats everywhere. Cooper’s position doesn’t rest on bringing home the bacon, it rests on his being a Democrat. If he loses that credibility he’s done. So yes, Cooper is more conservative than Nancy Pelosi or John Conyers or Barbara Lee, but ultimately all of them represent safe seats and are all subject to the same pressures from a base that will not brook cooperation with Trump. Which means that this would be something less like Dubya’s domestic policy and something more like a grand bipartisan bill involving all Congressional leaders. Which would be a tough one to get by the Dem base and its activists like Indivisible, which are specifically built to resist stuff like this. More on that later.

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I honestly don’t understand why a non-zero number of American lefties are cheering for Angela Merkel to win another term as German Chancellor. I have to assume it’s because they’re conflating that election with the French election, where the alternatives are the soft, Russian-linked fascism of Le Pen and something mainstream (most likely Emanuel Macron). But in Germany the choice is between Merkel and center-left Martin Schulz. The soft fascist choice polls at about 12% and has been falling. It wasn’t long ago that the general consensus among the left blogosphere was that Merkel was a failure and probably a world-historically disastrous one, responsible for the failed and useless Greek tragedy, the obstinate face of counterproductive austerity politics, the stubborn foe of mending EU institutions, and so on. It’s possible that Schulz will be worse on those issues – his background is mainly as an EU bureaucrat – but his stances on them have been encouraging, and it’s possible that his knowledge of EU institutions could lead to some strengthening reforms. Plus, showing that the center-left can still win would be, you know, good.

It’s just really weird that American liberals got it into their minds that Merkel is the only hope for Western Civilization is all I’m saying. The nightmare scenario didn’t happen in the Netherlands and probably won’t in France either, and Trump’s already more hated than Obama ever was. Let’s just keep things in perspective.

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Perriello may actually win this. Yes, about half the Virginia Dem electorate is undecided, but Northam has a ton of establishment backing and he can’t even manage a modest lead in the early going. It’s not great that neither are terribly well-known, but it’s a much bigger problem for the guy who’s the second-highest ranking official in the state than it is for the guy who actually is running as an underdog. Perhaps this poll will shake things up a bit in terms of the establishment support, which it should. There’s no need to settle here. Perriello is someone who could conceivably be on a national ticket in three years, and who could help relaunch the party given Virginia’s proximity to DC. One of the many problems with the culture of the Democratic Party is that it doesn’t develop prospects like it used to, i.e. running men in their 60s and 70s for the Senate because they don’t have anybody younger who is promising. Perriello is someone who could be a prospect for Senate or the White House for some time to come if he wins. It seems like gross political malpractice to toss that aside, particularly since Northam doesn’t seem to really have a base or much public support.

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Atrios is correct when he argues that Trump could have had levels of popularity equivalent to what Obama enjoyed for most of his presidency, instead of already being below Obama’s worst period a mere two months in. I think it has much to do with Trump/Bannon being sentimentally attached to the image of being DISRUPTORS than anything else. People are more likely to adjust themselves to gradual change than a big bang, all at once type deal. That’s what all the executive orders were about, the cabinet nominations, the ACA repeal tactics. Fuck you, what you gonna do about it? As it turns out, quite a bit. Bullying can occasionally be effective but it does ultimately breed resistance. This is why the LBJ fetishism on the left doesn’t entirely make sense unless you ignore the brutal downfall that killed his career (and in short order the man himself). Or take Jim Wright, if you want another example–guy spent three decades working to become Speaker and lost it in less than three years because he bullied everyone so much, nobody defended him when he was in trouble. Trump could be substantially more popular if he’d just given Democrats a couple of reasons to think he wouldn’t be as bad as they feared. Instead, he’s united the opposition and divided his own party, which is a pretty ironclad sign of shitty leadership, whether it’s on the left (e.g. Jeremy Corbyn in the UK) or right.

This is why the numerous press narratives about how Trump was some sort of little-loved pariah in his party never really washed. He was merely responding to what Republicans demanded of their leaders. No compromises, get on board or get off, grind the liberals and RINOs into the dirt. If it takes tanking the economy, shutting down the government, breaching the debt ceiling, so what? In other words, they liked Dubya as The Decider, not as the guy hashing out No Child Left Behind. Of course, the times when Bush was a my-way-or-the-highway type were the ones where he fell flat on his ass (Social Security privatization, Iraq), while the times when he maneuvered tended to be more successful. NCLB is a pretty terrible example (though it was plenty bipartisan), but overall, he did manage to keep Democrats off balance for four years and essentially owned the media for the length of that time as well. I never thought Bush was the worst president ever (bottom ten for sure but Andrew Johnson and that string of Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan are really hard to beat), but Trump has a real chance of getting down there.

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