Everyone file this one away for use someday when we survey the ashes of democracy:

“Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” — White House Policy Adviser Stephen Miller

Update: Might as well just add in this oldie but goodie:

“What we are witnessing now is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.” — Devil Incarnate Stephen Bannon

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Probably not a good sign for the current administration that I’m right now seeing a lot of “how Trump can still turn this around” headlines. In an abstract, theoretical sense, this is of course true. But in the specific case, I’m afraid not. It’s too early to say that Trump is just done like Dubya was in 2007 where nobody had any confidence left that he could do the job and just tuned him out, but we’re a hell of a lot closer to that point than I would have thought by now, and getting to that point seems like an inevitable geometric progression more than anything else. And there’s really not much that Trump can do about that. Sure, he could fire some of the problem spots in his staff and hire actual professionals to run the government, and he’ll probably do some version of that soon. But the reason why those problem spots have exerted so much influence is because they’re people who share Trump’s twisted ideas and know how to get him to do their bidding–by exploiting his weaknesses of tribalism and inattention to detail. In other words, the disasters have been due to ideology and an unfit, sloppy executive. There are no staffers that are going to fix that! A proper, professional White House staff could well cut down on some of the self-inflicted wounds, but it is not going to protect a weak, ignorant, paranoiac narcissist from himself. Pretending that it’s the process that’s the major problem here is ridiculous.

Also, while it’s undoubtedly better for all involved to fix the problem sooner than later, I’m not really sure how Trump is able to do take-backsies on picking massive flops of a White House Chief of Staff and a National Security Adviser without getting a lot closer to Bush ’07 burnout. I don’t think anybody is going to give a fuck if he fires, say, Sean Spicer, and the fate of Reince Priebus is probably of interest only to his immediate family (though picking a glad-handing party hack to run the executive branch was always a questionable idea), but “Oops, the person I picked to keep America safe was a Russian spy! Now give me total power!” just doesn’t seem like something that’s going to scare Democrats, or convince anyone that he has any administrative or staffing skills. Though this does raise the question of which of these jobs will soon be held by Jared Kushner. My guess: both of them.

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Sometimes I wonder if the woman’s entire career is based on trolling liberals. If so, this is a pretty epic one. Of course, in the end she’ll probably vote to filibuster and then vote no on the nomination. But she’s gone rogue on judges before. I doubt she’d do that as it this time as it might finally bring about a primary challenge (though that’s sort of a lemons into lemonade thing from my perspective).

But you have to give it to DiFi: she’s managed to represent some very liberal jurisdictions despite a record and rhetoric that on a bad day would put her to the right of Evan Bayh. That’s some talent for spin right there.

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Really nothing to add to this:

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I was with some friends this past weekend who wanted to watch a bad movie to make fun of, and that bad movie wound up being Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I’m not really going to review the movie: after all, it’s been done before, and quite well at that. I’ll just say that it may wind up being the most influential film of the last decade. Note that I’m not saying good. It’s not a good film at all. But in terms of having all the elements of today’s dumb movies, it is, as they say, on point, and I can’t think of an earlier one that combines all the elements into one package, starting with just being an out-of-the-blue sequel that nobody particularly was clamoring for, plus returning characters that don’t much feel like what they used to be, new characters that aren’t really characters, an unengaging story that is papered over by fan service-y references to earlier, better chapters in the series (though compared to, say, The Force Awakens, it’s pretty restrained on that count), a fundamental misplacing of the spirit of the original thing, grotesquely excessive CGI and a “big” finale that makes no sense (though since it’s Spielberg, at least it’s visually easy to follow, which is more than can be said for a quite a lot of today’s blockbusters). Back when the movie came out, people had a hard time putting their finger on why they didn’t like it. Now we can put it into the context of blockbuster history since then, and so much of it is worse versions of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. What a dystopia.

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It’s probably not the worst thing in the world that the public thinks of “the First Amendment” as a broad, society-wide protection of the speech of jerks and assholes, even though strictly speaking it is no such thing. But we need to remember this sometimes. There’s no clause of the actual First Amendment giving people the right to say crazy shit with no consequences, and there’s no clause entitling those people to a television program or radio show or speaking venue, and to actually put it that way lays bare just how ridiculous this line of argument is. But it seems like you can’t throw a rock on the internet now without running into a piece by a liberally-inclined person defending Milo Yiannopoulis’s right to give a speech on the UC Berkeley campus, and I think a point needs to be made here. Or two. First off, it’s both wrong and politically stupid for protesters to halt the speech by force. It plays into what low-rent pukes like this guy want: high-profile conflict and the frisson of danger. Be smart, people.

Second, far more stupid than that was for Berkeley staff to okay the event in the first place. Of course, universities should be presenting different points of view in bringing in speakers. On a philosophical level, I don’t really mind if schools allow conservative hacks like Jonah Goldberg to give a speech that nobody will remember in five hours. (I do mind on other levels beside the philosophical, but let’s table that.) Yiannopoulis, though, isn’t Jonah Goldberg, he’s someone who has fanned the flames of online bigotry, particularly against Jews and women, and has sent online mobs to harass people for having the temerity to think and write online. This isn’t furthering the liberal tradition via inclusivity of diverse viewpoints: it’s carrying it out on a stretcher, and it’s particularly problematic that one of our premier universities is doing it. Hell, I don’t think very many people were hurt by the laughable history of Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, probably more people laughed at it or shrugged it off. But someone who uses harassment and intimidation as a tactic in public discourse is not someone who should be invited to speak at any institution that actually holds liberal values (though Berkeley pays John Yoo, so imagining it as run by hippies is not a safe presumption). Inviting a speaker, of course, doesn’t imply an endorsement of their politics, but it does imply that they make a contribution to the discourse that is worth being heard. By implication, this means that Berkeley believes that anti-Semitism, misogyny, and authoritarianism are simply other viewpoints among many that need to be heard, a naive and offensive view that renders invisible the real people who have been intimidated and hurt by this man. This is liberalism at its suicidal worst: obsessed with being seen as honest brokers, fixated on big abstractions rather than the human scale, and reluctant to offer any sort of judgment, moral or otherwise. It’s what wrecked the mainstream media, it’s a major part of the cultural rot within the Democratic Party and IMO it’s a major part of the reason why liberalism is often viewed with mistrust. If liberal institutions are seriously this incapable of exercising basic moral judgments, then liberalism is bound to fail.

Needless to say, the Berkeley brass should have forced Yiannopoulis to rent out a Ramada Inn ballroom. Ultimately, I bet the reason they didn’t was because they wanted to seem reasonable and unbiased. God, these people. If liberals to an individual just gave up on trying to get conservatives to respect them, imagine what we could do.

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I’d like to make a note about anti-Americanism with a broader point. I’ve been to 16 countries in my life. Most Americans never visit a foreign country, and I think many of them are afraid to–they may think that foreigners just can’t wait to start lecturing Americans on all the things they’re doing wrong, and make them feel stupid. I’ve personally never encountered this. Probably the most extreme it got was when a Brazilian woman in a hotel lobby asked where I was from, and made what could be most aggressively described as a mildly sour face when I responded. This was during the interregnum after Trump’s election win but while Obama was still in office. I shrugged and that was it, and we went about our business. And this is compounded many times over by people I’ve encountered who were total Americaphiles, super-happy to see me and eager to ask learn about the US. I’m sure that a lot of foreign people I’ve encountered have issues with American foreign policy and dislike aspects of our country, but frankly I think most of them realize that when it comes to foreign policy in particular, it’s largely lobbyists and an elite bipartisan war clique that makes those decisions, and not the American people in any sort of meaningful way. They do tend to know more about American politics than we do about theirs.

This brings me to Iran. I’ve never been there, but it’s commonly stated that the average Iranian doesn’t hate America, regardless of what their state propaganda says. For what it’s worth, I’ve talked to people from Iran and they’ve confirmed that this is largely true. Repressive regimes that lie to their people all the time tend not to be trusted. This includes when they say that some other group is the enemy. It makes intuitive sense. Which is why Trump’s travel ban is so stupid: it validates the lying, repressive, horrible regime. Now actual people in Iran can go ahead and say, that happened. The regime told the truth on this one. Maybe that turns some minds, maybe it doesn’t. But it’s a shot in the foot for no reason. Perhaps it is pointless antagonism to gear up for war, but I’ll be writing about that later.

I must confess, I am a bit worried about what the reactions will look like for my Europe trip in May, which includes stops in the Baltic States. I will report on that in due time.

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The capital of the resistance:

As President Trump threatens to strip federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities,” defiant Democrats in Sacramento are doubling down on policies to protect immigrants at risk of deportation — bills that many say would turn California into a sanctuary state.

One would prohibit police officers from collecting information on a person’s immigration status or from responding to certain requests from federal agents. Others would use taxpayer-funded legal aid to help people in deportation proceedings and train defense attorneys on immigration law.

The fast-tracked proposals — set for hearings Tuesday — have become a key tactic in California’s resistance against the Trump administration’s policies on immigration. They have drawn plaudits from immigration advocates and criticism from opponents who say they tie the hands of local police and risk further alienating Washington.

There’s no way that President Bannon doesn’t respond harshly to this. In fact, California was almost certainly going to be the first target of these clowns no matter what. But I think the state is ready, from the public to its political leaders. And we’re not going to back down.

What is it that makes California different from the rest of the country? And why do conservatives hate it so much? I wouldn’t say it’s the most liberal state–Oregon in many ways has us beat (not the least of which is taxation). It’s not the most Democratic state. It is literally a big target, sure, but I think the hatred for California is based mainly on fear: the fear of a public that ignores appeals to white backlash. Which we do have. I should be clear: California is not free of racism, not at all. But the politics of the state are not racialized the way they are even in some blue areas. This is a major distinction. Think of how Giuliani/Bloomberg ran New York City for so long with the white grievance club firmly in their bags. And let’s not even get into the rust belt stuff of 2016. But California actually had a backlash to the backlash: Clinton actually improved on Obama’s numbers among whites in California, may even have won a majority of us for the first time in decades. It’s not just because of minorities that white backlash doesn’t sell here. It’s because of whites too. (Also too, minorities made up significantly more of the electorate than they did last time, going by the exit polls.)

What would the Republican Party be without white resentment? The answer in California is: pretty much nothing, an occasionally irritating pest that can usually be safely ignored. The state GOP is largely unelectable outside of pockets of inland, rural areas. Statewide it hasn’t won an election since 2006. Think about that. That was before Iron Man came out in theaters. Their only strategic goal is to keep Democrats from gaining a supermajority, which becomes harder for them every year. And every time they find a leader with any talent or potential, they invariably wind up branding that person a RINO and proceed to rip them to pieces. This time the lucky devil is going to be Kevin Falconer, the mayor of San Diego, who is being heavily recruited to run for governor in 2018. He’s actually not a bad guy and he’s by far the best candidate they could find: most people don’t know that San Diego is actually California’s second largest city, with San Francisco coming in fourth due to its self-imposed limitations to growth, and Falconer is pretty popular there. He has a base, seems reasonable, and could vow to be a check on Democrats’ extremism, often a winning message. If it weren’t going to be an out-party midterm for his party, he’d probably have a very strong chance to win. But if Falconer were to win, the party would turn on him even faster than they did on Schwarzenegger. Basically, being a Republican who could win in a major urban center is tantamount to being a Democrat to these folks. For one thing, Falconer actually supports doing something about climate change, which prevents him from being completely unelectable in the state, but opens up the possibility that the rank and file will vote for a white supremacist instead (such as). Because, of course, white backlash works great in the conservative exurbs and rural areas. But there aren’t anywhere near enough of those folks to win. That’s the reason why Republicans hate California so much. But it’s also why they’re not going to get anywhere with us, because that’s the only weapon they have. If Bannon thinks he’s going to win playing that card–and what else can he do?–we’ll be happy to prove him wrong.

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