Saturday, June 30, 2018

A day in the life of The Massachusetts Spy

We love hearing from our millions of loyal readers.  In addition to the daily diet of news tips, helpful comments, and fantasies about what will happen to our female reporters and editors when the writer and his 10 imaginary friends meet them outside the Taco Bell where they have been stalking them for months, we are often asked: what's a typical day like at The Spy?  Of course, there are no typical days, so we just took one at random to show you.  It happened to be last Friday.  So enjoy this look behind the scenes and keep those Tweets, emails, and threats of ritual disembowelment coming!

For the last 100 years, the Spy's headquarters have been an unmistakable local landmark.

The Spy's editorial team is up early, ready to start another exciting day of newsgathering!

In the Spy's newsroom, assignment editors prepare the news budget and assign stories to incoming [Surely, arriving? – Ed.] staff.

After the morning editorial meeting, the Spy's reporters hit the streets to gather the news.

What with the Internets, sometimes Spy field reporters have to call in their stories to the continuous news desk for immediate posting.

Back in the office, other Spy reporters share what they have learned with editors who prepare the story for immediate release.

After the Late City Final goes to press, the Spy's reporters and editors finally have time to relax and reflect on the exciting developments of the news day.

Early in the morning the Spy's crack delivery team hits the streets to get that day's paper into the hands of its loyal readers.  Then we go back to work and start all over again, just for you!

We'd like to thank Dana Loesch, the NRA, and the Republican Party for their assistance in the preparation of a day in the life of The Spy.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Times: it doesn't just break the news it vaporizes it

By A.J. Liebling
Meta-Content Generator

In this fevered environment when new assaults are levied on the rule of law and other pillars of our Republic non-stop, lots of news organizations are doing a good job of breaking news.   But only a few, including The New York Times, go beyond breaking the news all the way to blasting it to incomprehensible smithereens.

Case in point: Sunday's version of that media favorite, liberals forcing supporters of the Bigot-in-Chief to, wait for it – support the Bigot-in-Chief.  We've seen this hot take before, like here and here and here, but it keeps coming back.

This time, though, it did not go so well for ace Washington correspondent Jeremy Peters who as usual assembled his hot take with the standard recipe of interviewing three white people, and seasoned it with a few graphs.

First up was one Gina Anders, described by Peters as “a Republican from suburban Loudoun County, Va., with a law degree, a business career, and not a stitch of “Make America Great Again” gear in her wardrobe.”

All true enough but there was so much more about Ms. Anders worth knowing.  Mr. James J. Southpaw, Esq. (@nycsouthpaw) revealed that Ms. Anders wasn't just any suburban professional: 

She was an ardent supporter of crackers Ron Paul, a magnet for white supremacists and neo-Confederates.  Nothing to see here, said our correspondent:

In fact there was nothing in Peters' story to support his claim that Gina Anders or any other white supremacist crackpot was feeling conflicted about supporting President U Bum.  And why should she be?  After all, he's given her everything she wanted: hatred, bigotry, and support for her undeserved feelings of white privilege.

But Peters doesn't stop at his ridiculous mischaracterization of one of his lovable bigots; he also validates her claim that she supports U Bum even more because he is attacked for his racism and hatemongering by liberals:
“All nuance and all complexity — and these are complex issues — are completely lost,” she said, describing “overblown” reactions from the president’s critics, some of whom equated the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children and parents to history’s greatest atrocities. “It makes me angry at them, which causes me to want to defend him to them more,” Ms. Anders said.
Now if you stopped to think about this for even five seconds (the amount of time it took Mr. Southpaw to out Ms. Anders as a white supremacist), you would realize this makes no sense.  Here's a hard right bigot who loyally supports the Bigot-in-Chief.  When the Bigot-in-Chief is attacked, what would any of his loyal supporters do?  That's right – they would support him.  When the Bigot-in-Chief isn't attacked, what would any of his loyal supporters do?  You'll have to figure this one out for yourself.

Would anyone in the world ever say, “You know I used to support President U Bum until I realized he was a hateful racist grifter.  But then liberals attacked him so I went back to supporting him”?   Does anyone in the world think like that?

For asking Peters why Ms. Anders' background was omitted, Brian Beutler, doing his job as CNN's Media Correspondent, was blocked by Peters in violation of Times policy.  Perhaps for that reason, Peters today consented to be quizzed by Slate, and good for him we say.

The Slate interview was doubly surprising: first, that Peters would consent to being questioned pretty rigorously, and second, that Slate is still in business.  We had thought that it had confected its last hot take (What's so great about the Fifth Amendment? Why won't liberals give up a woman's right to choose an abortion?) eons ago, but we, unlike Peters, admit when we're wrong.

Here's Peters' explanation for the phenomenon he claims (wrongly) to have discovered and described in his story:
I think they don’t really appreciate the fact that the perception that the left and the media is going overboard with this president is causing them to be more protective of him than they otherwise would.
So in an alternate universe in which no one criticized U Bum for his grifting, his bigotry, or his contempt for the core institutions of American Government. good folk like Gina Anders would protect him less?  How does Peters know this?  Other than because U Bum supporters hand out that talking point to any credulous interviewer?

Peters seems to think that if you're wearing a red MAGA hat you're hopelessly hardcore but if you're part of a white supremacist cult you're another open-minded professional, just like him:
Right, but you end the piece with a quote from her, which is: “It all coalesces around Trump. It’s either, ‘Trump wants to put people in cages, in concentration camps.’ Or, on the other side, ‘Oh the left just wants everybody to come into the country illegally so they can get voters.’ ” And then she says: “We can’t have a conversation.” This make her seem like someone more in the middle of the road who wants to bring everyone together—
Yeah when she spoke to me that’s exactly the way that she seemed. I found her to be very thoughtful and not at all blindly following Trump just because he is Trump. That is the caricature that this story tried to break down. There is an awful lot of nuance and shades to these people’s beliefs. Because Gina apparently has an affiliation with a PAC in West Virginia that does a bunch of small races as far as I can tell, I don’t see how that is at all discrediting. This is something she appeared to do six years ago when she worked for Ron Paul’s campaign. I went to do my due diligence and asked people in Paul world if they had ever heard of her, and they said they hadn’t.  (emphasis deleted in part)
So because she was a small-time white supremacist crackpot that's OK?

Honestly, we can't go on much longer.  We'd only note that we share Ms. Anders' concern about how hard it is to have a conversation especially with bigots like her who equate the truth (that U Bum is yanking babies and children away form their mothers and sticking them in cages) with lies (that anyone opposing U Bum's evil believes that we should close down all border inspection stations and let in the whole world, a position that no one has ever advocated).

And his graphs?  The purport to show that Republicans like the Grifter-in-Chief more than they liked any previous Republican President, except the last one.  And that proves . . . . (the answer our judges will accept: nothing).

Speaking of research, we assumed that Peters' combination of ignorance, laziness, arrogance, and condescension could have come from only one place.  But five seconds of digging revealed that contrary to our expectation, he did not obtain his journalistic, um, training at The Harvard Crimson.  It turns out he was an editor of The Michigan Daily.

All we can say is we know editors of The Michigan Daily.  Editors of The Michigan Daily are friends of ours, to say the least.  And you, Mr. Peters, are no editor of The Michigan Daily, because at The Michigan Daily, like at The Daily Show, when news breaks, they learn to fix it, not shatter it into a million tiny pieces.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Conservative intellectuals explain how we got here. It did not go well.

By Herb Marcuse
Ideas and Culture Editor

The fatally open-minded E.J. Dionne, Jr., convened a round-table discussion with several leading examples of conservative “intellectuals” disenchanted with the descent of the Republican Party into a brainless claque of Tangerine Shirts.

What did we learn from these thoughtful folks?

Conservative intellectuals remember their glory days . . .
One conclusion leaps out: as long as conservative “intellectuals” flap their gums about their past glories and current indignities, we'll never lack for material.

Former George W. Bush flack and coatholder David Frum, come on down!

Instead of starting as he should have by apologizing for lying this country into a bloody war of choice and the commission of heinous war crimes, he deploys one classic strategy of conservatives unable to defend their past or present views: whataboutism.

There's no difference between the Grifter-in-Chief and Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders because all three have a dangerously “messianic” appeal?  Of course, the same smear was deployed against Barack Obama in 2008, to no avail.

We wonder if David Frum would admit that there is a difference between politicians who seek to inspire their followers and those who seek to inflame the racism, bigotry, and unjustified sense of grievance of their hate-filled mobs while undermining democracy with graft and authoritarianism.

Actually, we're just f***in' with you.  We don't give a toss what anyone who advances such a preposterous false equivalence thinks.

Next up, batting right, Liz Mair.   She thinks that the Tangerine-Faced Grifter is in essence advocating for single payer health care.  Score that a pop up to the first base side, out 3-unassisted and buy her a bus ticket back to Scranton.

Now we get to the heart of the lineup.  Here's Pete Wehner, another Bush flack and apologist.  Tell us a little bit about yourself, Pete:
Just autobiographically, I’m a product of the Reagan Revolution. When I was growing up and being formed intellectually and politically during the Reagan years and the 1980s, the important books at that time were: Losing Ground by Charles Murray on welfare, The Naked Public Square by Richard John Neuhaus, Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, and James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein’s Crime and Human Nature. Justice Antonin Scalia was a huge figure in terms of his articulation of originalism.  

That's pretty much all we need to know: Murray and Herrnstein were intellectual disgraces pushing utter bs theories about genetic differences in intelligence and clubability between rich white and poor black people, based on falsified (Burt's twin studies, anyone?) or inconclusive research.  Nino Scalia, when not advocating for torture on TV, had such respect for originalism that he handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush based on an equal-protection theory he invented for the occasion and interpreted the Second Amendment by failing to read its first clause and creating from whole cloth a reasonableness limitation.

After lauding intellectually dishonest exalters of white rich male privilege, where does he go?  Incredibly enough, and without acknowledging the links between the intellectual history he venerates and the shrieking mobs at U Bum rallies, he manages to get to the right conclusion:  the Bigot-in-Chief is in fact the “culmination of dark forces on the American right.”  Tune in tomorrow to find out if this causes Pete to re-evaluate everything he has ever said or done.

Betting cleanup, Jennifer Rubin blames the current deranged adoration of the Grifter-in-Chief on  “a failure to grow and a failure to keep up with the times.”  So conservative opposition to civil liberties in the McCarthy Era and civil rights in the 60's might have been OK back then but now in the age of Instachat and Snapogram we need to move on?

Of course, the reality of American conservative thought is its consistency: hatred of minorities, hatred of anyone whose lifestyle or political views differs from theirs, the belief that government exists solely to protect the interests and bank accounts of a narrow plutocratic elite, and denial of any responsibility to other people, cultures, or indeed to the planet we are stuck on.   The song remains the same; it's just we've never heard it sung so loudly and so badly from the Oval Office before.

She too shares some personal intellectual history:
If you were a teenager, or young adult, and you had conservative leanings, you took pride in Bill Buckley, who was the wittiest and the funniest and the most erudite public intellectual of his time. You also had an approach to politics that was based on the very conservative notion that people are flawed. 
The most erudite what?  Are we talking about Bill Buckley, who defended Joe McCarthy's reign of terror until the day he died (Bill, not Joe – Bill defended the drunken demagogue long after Joe's liver gave up the fight)?  The guy who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on the grounds that white Southerners were naturally superior?  That's your role model and intellectual Polaris?  Get back to reviewing the royalty clauses in the contract for Scott Baio's 1988 Christmas Special.

. . . like these
We also will stop (and probably end, as we can feel our breakfast churning) with this quote, because it contains one of the most famous clich├ęs of conservatism: the supposed distinction between liberals, who foolishly believe people are good, and conservatives, who know they are not.

Have you ever heard this distinction propounded or defended by anyone other than a conservative?  How does it even follow?  If you think people are flawed, wouldn't you support a government to minimize the damage their flaws can cause, like, oh, I don't know, destruction of the earth, or misallocating all resources and social goods (like immunity from police misconduct) to a greedy few?  Oh, and if all people are flawed, why would you lie about the reasons to start a war when you really wanted to overthrow a flawed leader?  Why would you think that George W. Bush (speaking of flaws) would do a better job of running Iraq than Iraqis?

And wouldn't you strongly support the rule of law so that flawed people can't arrogate the power to torture helpless detainees or rip infants from their mothers' breasts?

The whole conservatives are wise hard headed realists bit was never anything more than a crock.  That E.J. Dionne could sit through what sounds like hours of wisdom-free reality-challenged defensive whining is a tribute to him.

As for us, we would have kicked these sorry excuses for intellectuals out onto K Street at the first mention of William F. Buckley, Jr.

Friday, June 8, 2018

He walks! He talks! He's invincible!

By A. Larry Lowell
State House Bureau Chief

What do you call a white man who presides over a state government where the highways are crumbling, the mass transit is inadequate and derelict, the schools in poorer communities are appalling, the police are riddled with corruption, the housing is crushingly expensive, and the National Guard is sent 2000 miles away to fool around on the Rio Grande?

If the state is Massachusetts, you call him unbeatable.

The case of Charlie Baker '79, a sluggish supposedly moderate Republican running for re-election in an overwhelmingly Democratic state grows ever more curious.  He's regarded as a prohibitive favorite for re-election although he can't point to anything he accomplished during his first term that would appear to justify voting for him.

The MBTA?  After trying and failing to kill off a court-ordered Green Line extension, and providing exactly zero dollars for desperately needed transit lines (Blue Lynn to Lynn, Red-Blue Connector, turning the Fairmount Line into real mass transit), Baker has managed to deflect blame for each new colossal meltdown of the aging, underfunded system by claiming each time that he is shocked, shocked to discover that the commuter rail is unreliable and inadequate, the Red Line a disaster, the aged Orange Line fleet is good for toasting marshmallows and not much else, the sketchy bus system is bogged down in traffic, and all available money goes to giving T workers lifetime pensions beginning at age 50, a modest recompense for years of hard labor pushing the button that opens the doors.

His care and feeding of the highway system isn't any better.  Why it took many lifetimes to shore up a 2,000 foot bridge across the Charles has never been answered.  Whether any of us now living will see the end of projects like the widening of 128 in Needham is another mystery.  Fortunately, due to the failure by the Registry to prepare properly for the Real ID calamity, soon none of us will be able to drive at all.

At Harvard, everyone could see that Charlie Baker
was headed for the bar [Surely, great things? – Ed.].
Massachusetts voters are partial to voting for Republican Governors on the theory that they serve as a check on the crooked heavily-Democratic Legislature, which if left unsupervised would sell the gold leaf off the State House Dome for beer.  But what always happens is that the Republican achieves a cozy relationship with the Democratic poobahs, trading no new taxes for business as usual.

And so it is with this shaygetz.  The State Police, under Charlie Baker, have been shown to be a cesspool of corruption.  Charlie's response?  To abolish the letter E.  Meanwhile the Staties still run around the Seaport with impunity and just today we learn that various Highway Department hacks still enjoy evading tolls.  Charlie will be shocked, shocked to find out about that just as soon as a reporter asks him for comment.

What doesn't get the ink, though, is the continued underfunding and mismanagement of the state's human services programs.  Find us three people who think Charlie's doing a good job providing care to children and families in need of services.  We're waiting.

And in one of the richest states in the country, Charlie still underfunds public schools and colleges, having devoted himself to pushing leech-like charter schools which siphon money and students away from public systems.  He's cut higher education funding, further burdening needy students with crushing debt, and he's refused to modify or augment aid formulas that leave chronically cash-poor school systems like Brockton unable to properly educate their students.

To distract from this impressive record of not doing jack sh*t, he attends to Republican mouth-breathers here and Washington by dispatching a Mass. National Guard helicopter and crew to the Mexican boarder to feed the Bigot-in-Chief's Emperor Palpatine fantasies and promotes increased cooperation between local police and ICE body-snatchers.  This of course is a great way to ensure that anyone with a questionable immigration status is entirely outside the protection of state law, including laws related to domestic abuse, exploitation of labor, or for that matter murder.

So why is a mediocre man with a terrible record unbeatable?  You'd have to note that the local economy is booming, and voters always wrongly blame or credit the incumbent Governor for something that's entirely out of his control.

But probably Charlie's greatest strength is the Tangerine-Faced Grifter, who makes Charlie look good every day by comparison.  Equally important, Massachusetts Democrats, faced with a choice between devoting their time and money toward (1) saving the Republic from the U Bum Sh*t Show or (2) unseating a lumpish Governor with a blah record, seem to have chosen door #1.

It's hard to blame them.  But it's even harder to explain why voters packed into burning Orange Line cars, unable to afford homes, burdened by college debt, and confronted by failing underfunded public schools turn to Charlie Baker and say “Whatta guy!”

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sunday Brunch: All you can eat hot takes from Maureen

By A.J. Liebling 
Meta-Content Generator

What institution is more venerated than Sunday Brunch?  And nothing makes a brunch special like an overflowing buffet from the International House of Hot Takes d/b/a The New York Times Op-Ed Page (and its blown-up Sunday version, the Sunday Review).

Usually to get your fill of hot takes you have to go from stall to stall, stopping at Ross Douthat's House of Sad Embryos, the ol' Perfesser's Both Sides Included, and Bret Stephens' Handy Style Guide for When It's Okay to Smear Women.

But today you don't have to wait in line to fill your plate with a steaming stack of hot takes – today, you can pile them on in one stop merely by reading Maureen Dowd.  The ostensible subject was Obama bad, but if you thought you'd escape without Maureen's favorite Hilary Clinton smears, served extra-snarky just like you like 'em, brother, you've been missing her patented Georgetown anti-elitist home cookin' for too long.

Where to dive in?  The good news is: stick a fork anywhere in her column, you'll spear a hot take.  The fishing is so good, it's almost as if America's laziest columnist outsourced this one to her brother “Kevin.”

How about Obama is not very good at politics because he wasn't able to persuade some people to do what he wanted them to do?  Sure, the first black man elected and re-elected President of the United States is not very good at politics.

Let's just leave that hot take on the plate and let it cool off a while.

Also Obama was always telling us how disappointed he was in us.  Remember?  Neither does anyone else, as this appears to be a figment of Maureen's increasingly fevered imagination.  As evidence, she cites Obama's musing that maybe America wasn't ready for a black President.  To disprove that theory, she doesn't cite his successor, the Bigot-in-Chief.

Also by the end of his second term, Obama allegedly failed to respond to the supposed question Americans were asking, which was what was in it for them.  They were asking this after Obama saved America from the 2008 financial meltdown that threatened to destroy the economy, provided them with guaranteed health insurance, and presided over six years of economic growth.  Besides that, what was in it for them?

But we know what's really inspiring Maureen to rubbish this good man and brilliant politician.  According to her, he committed the Unforgivable Sin.  What was that?

Long-time customers of Dowdian hot takes know this one:  he failed to quash the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.  Belly up to the steam table and get a heap of Maureen's famous recipe of Clinton Hate.

First, Hillary Clinton is an elitist.  Of course, Maureen cites no authority for this proposition, apparently needing none.  So let's look at the evidence: Hillary lives in the tony DC enclave of Georgetown.  Like Maureen.  Hillary hobnobs with the rich and famous.  Like Maureen (although she does have to produce slurpy profiles of Barry Diller among other toads).  Hillary made big bucks writing books.  Like Maureen, although to be fair there's an extra comma in Hillary's advances.  Maybe that's what makes her an elitist!

Second, Hillary Clinton couldn't reduce her campaign to a three word slogan, like “Build the Wall.”

Third, she was a candidate so weak she only got 2,900,000 more votes than her opponent.

But we've gorged on these hot takes many times before (so we won't mention today that, unlike Maureen, Hillary is married).  Let's go back to Obama.

He chose Hillary over Joe Biden, that stalwart friend of women, except of course Anita Hill, whom he hung out to dry because he was too addled and weak to explore Long Dong Thomas's repeated acts of sexual harassment.  (Maureen could ask a real reporter like Jane Mayer about that.)  So she can't forgive Obama for that obviously.

There are a couple of half-hearted efforts to smear Obama for interfering in the investigation of the non-existent e-mail “scandal” and as too weak to make a bigger deal out of Russian election interference (having been threatened by Mitch McConnell that if he did so, the Republicans would claim the whole thing was a partisan smear), but those are just side dishes on the hot takes buffet.

What's most appalling about Maureen's latest contribution to the hot take menu is what it leaves it out: the reasons why Barack Obama had some problems persuading his fellow Americans to give his ideas a fair shot.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not so much, despite her incredibly bigoted brother “Kevin,” and her own childhood in a place where the streets are named for traitors, she is unable to recognize the existence of white racism.

Georgetown: home of famous non-elitist Maureen Dowd
She is eager to explain away the election of the Tangerine-Faced Grifter not due to Putin's interference or Comey's malfeasance, but to his appeal to an electorate supposedly hungry for “revolutionary change.”

And “revolutionary change” is what he has delivered if by “revolutionary change” you mean restoring racism to its central position in American politics, ripping Hispanic babies out of their mothers' arms, and snarling at minority NFL players for being too uppity.

Maybe the good white folks who so embraced this “revolutionary change” (like brother “Kevin”) weren't all that open to the appeal of a black President, even one as gifted as Barack Obama, and maybe white Republican politicians eagerly embraced this hatred to oppose each and every one of Obama's initiatives.

But recognizing this inescapable reality would destroy the carefully erected series of grudges that Maureen Dowd has nursed over the years.  If the current danger in which the Republic finds itself isn't Hillary's or Barack's fault, whose fault is it?

Never fear: at the International House of Hot Takes, all the mirrors have been removed for your comfort.