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Showing posts from 2017

Trump's tweets

I'm off Twitter, but President Trump's tweets remain ubiquitous.


Doesn't that mean Trump willingly had, as an advisor, a man he considers a ripoff artist?

Goodbye, Channel 6: (Journalism will never love you back)

Channel 6 in Lawrence, Kansas airs its last newscast tonight. Once upon a time, I had the privilege of trying to become a TV reporter while still writing for print; I spent my 30th birthday ad-libbing crazy stuff on live TV because the city commission election results were very, very, very late coming in. And some of you may remember the time I went to Columbia MO dressed in KU gear to get on-camera reaction in advance of a "Border War" basketball game.

You hear me say journalism will never love you. It won't. I thought at the time we were building something new, something that might survive the then-nascent turmoil of the business. Wrong. So many things I've tried to build during my career have disappeared. Poof. And I cannot lie: That hurts. A lot. My ego wants a legacy, and it's hard to leave a legacy in institutions that no longer exist.

But what would I have done differently?

Truth is, I enjoyed the hell out of being a jackass on Channel 6. I loved being a blog…

Me @TheWeek: The culture wars are all Trump has left

The culture wars are all Trump has left:
Trump can't pass a health-care bill (at least so far). Getting a tax cut looks like it might be tricky. The wall he promised looks no closer to reality than it did six months ago. There are real questions these days about whether Republicans are capable of governance.  In that climate, all Trump and the Republicans will have left are identity politics and the culture wars. It's why Trump — after promising to be a president who would protect LGBTQ rights — came out against them. It's why he spent a Tuesday night speech describing the crimes of illegal immigrants in torture-porn detail.  And it's the reason conservatives are cheering the prospect of Kid Rock making a Senate run against Stabenow; policy, these days, matters to them much less than all the "real America" virtue signalling that the entertainer provides. For Trump Republicans, that posturing is all that seems to really matter.

Jerry Moran: Bad cop

For 20 years or more, I've been used to thinking of Jerry Moran as the "good cop" in a state full of bad cops. Some of that's personal: He's got a background among Kansas Mennonites, like I do, and I was predisposed to the tribe, I guess. When I'd encountered him in a professional setting, he was far more congenial than, say, Pat Roberts, whose good humor leaves a sour aftertaste.

But after his vote today to proceed on a Senate healthcare bill that doesn't exist, I must finally concede: He is a congenial coward. The Hamlet act he pulls is a way of luring moderates and the occasional liberal (guilty!) to his side even as he votes conservative when push comes to shove.

This is possibly purely a fault of my own interpretation: Moran has never claimed to be anything but conservative. But his unwillingness to commit until very late on controversial issues — the characteristic that defines his political career — fooled me into thinking maybe it was possible to p…

The untold story of how Harry Reid helped give us Donald Trump

I've got a story to tell, one that's out there on the public record, but one that hasn't been much remarked upon.

It takes place during the Obama-Romney campaign of 2012. During the campaign, Mitt Romney was proving reluctant — as Donald Trump was, after him — to release some pertinent personal financial information. So Sen. Harry Reid, then the leader of Democrats in the Senate, decided to make a big deal about it.
Saying he had “no problem with somebody being really, really wealthy,” Reid sat up in his chair a bit before stirring the pot further. A month or so ago, he said, a person who had invested with Bain Capital called his office. “Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years,” Reid recounted the person as saying. “He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” said Reid. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?I wrote at the time that "Reid’s allegations look and smell a lot like bullcr…

The unexpected, lovely humanity of "Spider-Man: Homecoming"

Three thoughts about “Spider-Man: Homecoming” just as soon as I learn that with great power comes great blah-blah. (Also: Spoilers.)


• There’s really not much interesting to say about most Marvel movies anymore. They’re big, they’re expensive, they’re usually reasonably entertaining for a couple of hours and that’s it. I’ve been partial to the “Captain America” movies — the first because it took place in a different era and thus felt substantially different from the rest of the MCU — and the second because it so effectively echoed 1970s paranoid thrillers, right down to the Robert Redford.
I’m not sure that the new “Spider-Man” movie is all that different, but it has two scenes going for it that I want to linger on. Again: Spoilers!
• The first scene: When Peter Parker shows up at his date’s house to take her to homecoming. The door opens and what do we realize: The dad of Peter’s crush is also the movie’s villain — Michael Keaton, playing the Vulture. The next few minutes are both some…

Me @TheWeek: Block Christopher Wray's nomination to the FBI

In a stunning failure of self-promotion, I neglected to mention here my debut at TheWeek.com. I'm really thrilled to have been published there — the ranks of commentary writers are about as good as any publication in the country, so I feel lucky.

The subject of my debut? Christopher Wray, Donald Trump's nominee to lead the FBI. My take? Don't confirm him:
There's an old legal concept known as "the fruit of a poisonous tree." The idea is that if evidence is tainted — say, if police got a confession without reading a suspect his rights — then all information learned as a result of that evidence is inadmissible in court. The message to lawyers is clear: You don't get to take advantage of doing things the wrong way.  American government is not a court of law. But with President Trump, there's plenty of reason to think that the tree — the whole damned orchard, in fact— is filled with toxins. It's obviously not a good idea to halt all governance while D…

The straight line connecting tribalization, demonization, and Trump's Russia scandal

I’ve been thinking about this awful tweet from the awful Dennis Prager.

Which led me to this tweet this morning quoting a Fox News personality:
And I’m a bit discouraged. 

Let me preface: I’m not quite a “pox on both your houses guy.” All things being equal, I find liberalism superior to conservatism, and I don’t make apologies for it. But I do think political tribalism blinds us to the ways that we’re very similar to our rivals, and that awareness of those similarities is a hedge against hubris.

Among Democrats and liberals, I often hear a refrain that goes something like this: “Republicans don’t play by the rules. They’ll do anything to win, and when it comes down to it, they’ll stick with each other. Not like our side, which is weak and too willing to play by the rules. We have to be as tough as they are.”

Having spent time in the out Internet provinces of both conservatism and Trumpism, I can tell you this: Rank-and-file Republicans and conservatives say precisely the same thing about …

If Donald Trump was a good human being, we wouldn't be in this mess

I've been wondering lately: What would the world be like if Donald Trump was a good guy and not a man of such transparently ill character whose corruption and classlessness infects all around him?

A pause: I don't like attributing character flaws to people with whom I disagree. Usually, they're good — or good enough — people with different opinions! But with Trump, the crappiness of his character is key to the critique of him. It's unavoidable.

Let's apply the question to this week's big scandal — the newly reported meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer he thought might provide Russian government dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign.

If the people around Donald Trump had been both smart and patriotic, we wouldn’t be waking up this week to news that his son met with a Russian lawyer to dig up “dirt” in Hillary Clinton. We would’ve found out last summer — and it might’ve provided the boost he needed to win the presidency.

News of Trump…

Why smart conservatives should love the Bechdel test

I'm shocked, shocked that a National Review writer has decided to take issue with the "Bechdel test." The test, as I'm sure you know, is a very simple way to check if your movies have even a moment in them that isn't dude oriented. Here's Wikipedia:
The Bechdel test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.And here's NRO's Kyle Smith:
In the past few years, the Bechdel Test has begun popping up casually in reviews like a feminist Good Housekeeping Seal of approval. Take this appreciation last month of the 1992 film A League of Their Own, published by Katie Baker on the site The Ringer: “It is, in my possibly blinded by love but also correct opinion, one of the best sports movies there is. And it is an honest ode to women and sisters and friendships, with a story that breezes through the Bechdel test by the e…

Guns are not *just* inanimate objects

My latest at PennLive:
No, guns are not just "inanimate objects."  Yes, guns are tools. And yes, those tools don't operate without humans making the decisions.  But guns are a different type of tool. They are designed for one purpose only:
To kill.  The simple fact is that guns are qualitatively different, are designed and made to be dangerous -- are prized, in fact, for the amount of injury and death they can inflict -- and that makes them worth considering differently than we do, say, a wrench. I also show why the "cars kill people too" argument is (ahem) fatally flawed. Please give it a read!

War in North Korea is not inevitable - no matter what the hawks say

Speaking of the way Americans are sold wars of choice as no choice at all:
While the Kim regime is technically a Communist government, the ideology that governs North Korea is known as “Juche” (or, more technically, “neojuche revivalism”). The official state ideology is a mixture of Marxism and ultra-nationalism. Juche is dangerous because it is infused with the historical Korean concept of “songun,” or “military-first,” and it channels all state resources into the North Korean military—specifically its nuclear program. Juche is not a self-defensive ideology. Rather, it is a militaristic and offensive belief system. If the North gets a fully functional nuclear arsenal, they will use those weapons to strike at their American, South Korean, and Japanese enemies. Get that: If North Korea gets the right combination of nukes and missiles, it will definitely attack the United States. Which leads to the inevitable conclusion: "Given these facts, why should we waste precious time on n…

Self-restraint in North Korea

This has been stuck in my craw for the last day or so.
The unusually blunt warning, from Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commander of American troops based in Seoul, came as South Korea’s defense minister indicated that the North’s missile, Hwasong-14, had the potential to reach Hawaii.  “Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” General Brooks said, referring to the 1953 cease-fire that halted but never officially ended the Korean War. “As this alliance missile live-fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders.  “It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.” You know what else is a choice? Making war.

There's something awful and dangerous about the idea that war is a default position, that it takes an act of will not to send thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen into combat to inflict death on a widespread scale.

 This is particularly true in North Korea…

Donald Trump, Decius, and the AHCA

Michael Anton, a Donald Trump adviser who went by the pen name "Decius" in making the intellectual case for Trump during the campaign, said this during an interview about Modern Conservatism's failures:
Economic freedom is a human right. But with finance having seized the economy by the … whatevers … and income inequality skyrocketing, should lower taxes really be top priority? Carried interest, 2 and 20? Or is fostering economic solidarity more important? Conservatives have conniptions at the very question. But Aristotle says that the greatest wealth gap in a good regime should be 5 to 1. I’m not saying we want that, but in what way does making hedge fund managers the ultimate winners in our society make any sense? It made sense to challenge the Soviet Union, as it still makes sense to maintain a strong defense. But “strong defense” has morphed into endless, pointless, winless war.  In 1980, we had to unshackle the economy, rebuild the military and alliance structure, …

Donald Trump's Civil War question actually isn't that stupid.

Donald Trump is wrong and stupid and evil about a lot of things. In a world where we entertain counterfactuals, though, it is not wrong and stupid and evil to ask the question, "Why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?" The sniffy responses are getting out of hand.

As a libertarian friend of mine is fond of pointing out, the UK abolished slavery decades before the U.S. did, and did so without a shot being fired. So it is within the realm of possibility that a nation which entertained slavery can end it and not end up torn to shreds over it.

I'm not endorsing Trump's point of view. I think counterfactuals are of limited use: History played out the way it did, probably for reasons. I just think it's silly — in a country where somebody's written a "What if the Nazis had won?" novel every year for the last 70 — to get sniffy about this question.
More to the point: History is not inevitable. We are its actors. The president i…

My philosophy about football and CTE, stated here for the record.

• Individual choices matter, as long as they're informed.
• The NFL settlement of a suit regarding this issue suggests that for many players prior to the last couple of years, they were not adequately informed of the dangers.
• Nonetheless, let's say they're adequately informed now.
• The incentives to play football still make playing football an attractive prospect to many people, disproportionately poor.
• Those incentives are created by the large audience for football, one that generates money as eyeballs for advertising and spends a good deal of money on the game directly.
• When taken together with college football and high school football, the sport has disproportionate cultural power to the benefit it generates, which makes its costs worthy of extra attention.
• The potential costs of football are high enough, that the incentives to play it are, essentially, incentives for grown men to injure, occasionally maim, and outright harm each other.
• The benefit? We're entert…

The Ceaseless Importation of Third World Foreigners With No Taste for Liberty (Part 2)

“The ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle." Michael Anton, AKA "Decius," The Flight 93 Election.
HuffPo:
A 22-year-old undocumented immigrant arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday after speaking to the media about her family’s detention, is set to be deported without a court hearing, her attorney said on Thursday.

Daniela Vargas, who came to the U.S. from Argentina when she was 7 years old, previously had a work permit and deportation reprieve under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Her DACA status expired last November, and because she was saving money for the renewal — which cost $495 — her new application wasn’t received until Feb. 10. If Trumpista worries about immigration were truly ab…

When Donald Trump Quotes the Bible, I Get a Little Crazy

Yeah, I find it jarring every time he affects to quote the Bible. We know already he's possibly — probably? — the least Biblically literate president ever, with a personal theology (to the extent he has one) is alien to almost any recognizable form of Christianity. So if you're a believer (I'm agnostic, but with strong feelings about the church communities I grew up in) that means he' pimping out the God of the Universe in the service of whatever self-aggrandizing message he's sending at the time.

That's arguably true of most presidents who quote the Bible. It's just so obviously true of this president that I wish he'd quit rubbing our noses in it.

Trumpistas: Trump = America

The folks over at the Trumpista website American Greatness have a new piece up defining their brand of conservatism as, well, "Americanism."
The party of Obama and Hillary is the Anti-American Party. They want to put the American experiment behind us, to complete the Progressives’ 100-year project of progressively overthrowing the Constitution.  Donald Trump has called himself “a common sense conservative.” What, we may ask, is common sense conservatism? One thing is certain: it means loving America. Trump wants to save America by rallying the American people around the effort to save the republic. To which the proper response is — well, unprintable.

America is more than a limited government view of the Constitution — and that I have to tell my Trumpist friends this astounds me, makes me sorry for the narrowly legalistic view of what America is, has been, and should be that they think the spirit of this country can and should be contained in a particular modern interpretati…

We're Experiencing a Wave of Anti-Semitic Terrorism

Let's call the wave of anti-Semitic threats and grave desecrations what they are: Terrorism.

No, nobody's been hurt. Doesn't matter. Terrorism uses violence to achieve political aims. In this case, the violence is threatened and implied, but the aim is clear: To intimidate American Jews and their allies.

This is not a problem that can be mitigated with promises that "I'm the least anti-Semitic person you've ever met." It requires leadership.

The Ceaseless Importation of Third World Foreigners With No Taste for Liberty

“The ceaseless importation of Third World foreigners with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty means that the electorate grows more left, more Democratic, less Republican, less republican, and less traditionally American with every cycle." Decius, The Flight 93 Election.

Here's one of those Third Worlders with no tradition of, taste for, or experience in liberty:
"One night last fall, when the Fire Department was battling a two-alarm blaze, Mr. Hernandez suddenly appeared with meals for the firefighters. How he hosted a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the restaurant last summer as police officers were facing criticism around the country. How he took part in just about every community committee or charity effort — the Rotary Club, cancer fund-raisers, cleanup days, even scholarships for the Redbirds, the high school sports teams, which are the pride of this city." Mr. Hernandez is being deported. Thank Jesus he'll no longer be able to make his …

Wanted: Better Journalism About Football and CTE

A letter I just wrote to a McClatchy journalist:

Sir:

I just read your Cedric Benson story on the KC Star website, which concludes with this:

While Benson suffered from a variety of lower-body injuries in the NFL, there are no records of him ever suffering a concussion. Perhaps your story was edited to exclude additional information. If not, let me suggest the line — as it stands — omits so much information that it's possibly misleading.

Simply put: One needn't experience concussions to experience head trauma as a football player. Here's what the CTE Center says about the issue:
How do you get CTE? Can I get CTE from one concussion/hit to the head?We believe CTE is caused by repetitive brain trauma. This trauma includes both concussions that cause symptoms and subconcussive hits to the head that cause no symptoms. At this time the number or type of hits to the head needed to trigger degenerative changes of the brain is unknown. 

I'd wager that Mr. Benson received a fair nu…

Music From High School

Why Does Mexico Have to Pay for the Wall?

One question I've not really seen asked or answered:Why is it so important that Mexico pay for our wall? We're the ones who want it — I say "we" loosely here — and will build it. If I build a fence on my property, I don't make my neighbor pay. I don't even ask! So why is that so important, except as a means of demonstrating that "making America great" means forcing neighbors to do our will?

What ever happened to those racist white folks from those old photos?

See here.

For people of my generation, there was a narrative - not entirely spoken - that racism ended somewhere around 1968. That narrative, in turn, provided a foundation to the idea that attempts to correct for the effects of hundreds of years of racism were themselves racist — and, ironically, was allowed to suggest that problems that had their roots in racism were actually the results of the lesserness of other "cultures." The "end of racism" helped racism survive in dressed-up, yuppified form.

One ironic blessing of the Trump Era: Lots of folks don't feel the need to dress it up anymore. It's as out there as it's been in my lifetime.

"Angels With Dirty Faces": My Sad Tale

So about a year ago, I started thinking about the movie ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES. I'd seen it as a kid — back when you could see old 1930s movies playing on local TV on Saturday afternoons — and the ending, with Jimmy Cagney pleading for his criminal life, made a big impression on me. Maybe my son would find it interesting too.

Only...

In this era of streaming video, this classic movie is ... completely unavailable for streaming. It's not available, for purchase anyway, on Amazon or iTunes, and it's not on the Hulu or Netflix libraries. It's what made me decide to buy a DVD player after years of being a streaming-only consumer.

So.

Today, I go to my local video store — Lawrence has one, still! — find the movie in the classics section, rent it and bring it home.

Tonight, my wife and I sit down to watch it. Get about a half-hour in — to a critical, can't-skip scene where Cagney's character meets the Dead-End Kids, and it freezes, utterly.

So. The movie still isn&…

Netflix Queue: "The Lobster" and Our Authoritarian Age

Three thoughts about THE LOBSTER just as soon as I poke my eye out with a sharp stick. (Warning, some mild spoilers may be ahead.)



• The trailer of this movie doesn’t really capture the overall dystopian vibe — you might think you’re getting an eccentric romantic comedy, something like ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, but this is more of a grim LOGAN’S RUN. The conceit: Instead of aging, it’s singlehood that society abhors. Singles of a certain age — whether they get there through spinsterhood, widowership or a good old-fashioned breakup — are brought to a hotel where they’re given 45 days to find a mate … or else they’ll be turned into the animal of their choosing. Colin Farrell, our protagonist, says he’ll choose to be a lobster. “That’s a good animal,” the hotel manager tells him. Everybody else, she says, wants to be a dog. That’s why there are so many dogs in the world.

• His choice of animal aside, there are other clues that Farrell doesn’t fit in. Asked to choose betwee…

His Name Is Donald Trump. Keep Saying It.

I've seen this piece of "resistance" advice passed around in my precincts of the Internet, so I might as well address a problem I have with it.

I really hate item No. 1, and in fact I think it's wrong and pernicious.
There's two ways to view the de-naming effort, and I don't like either of them.

The first is that Trump has become Voldemort, and that we don't say his name because we fear him. Which, at this stage of things, is cowardly. He doesn't deserve that.

The second is that Trump's opponents, by trying to de-name him, are trying to de-person him. It's a technique that's more than a little authoritarian, and it suggests that those opposing Trump may end up becoming the thing they hate in opposing him. In which case, the resistance is no better than what it tries to replace.
Donald Trump is a lot of things. He's a fool and a boob, a vainglorious authoritarian who deserves to be mocked. He's also a person. It makes him a more conv…

Yes, It's a Muslim Ban

The latest talking point from the White House and its allies is that President Trump’s Muslim ban isn’t a Muslim ban. There are lots of countries with Muslim populations that aren’t targeted by the ban, after all. So what’s the big deal.

So how do we know the Muslim ban is a Muslim ban? Because President Trump and his allies have told us so.

This is what Trump called for during the campaign:

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called Monday for barring all Muslims from entering the United States.  "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," a campaign press release said.Rudy told us how the administration maneuvered to make the ban legal:
"He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’"  Giuliani said he then put together a commission that included lawmakers and expert lawyers.…

Trump Treats Jews and Christians Differently

Saturday:
The White House has defended its omission of Jews and antisemitism from a statement remembering the Holocaust by saying that Donald Trump’s administration “took into account all of those who suffered”.  On International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, the White House made no mention of Jews, Judaism or the antisemitism that fueled Nazi Germany’s mass murder of six million Jews in the 1940s.

White House representatives did not answer queries about the statement until Saturday, when spokeswoman Hope Hicks forwarded to CNN a link to a Huffington Post article about the millions of people who were killed by Nazis for their ethnicities, sexual orientation, politics or religious beliefs.

“Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered,” Hicks told CNN. Today:


Now. There's an "incredibly inclusive" group of people in Syria who have been made refugees by the war there, but President Trump has ch…

It's Not Just Muslims. We're Closing the Door to All Refugees.

Matt Welch points out a fact that's lost in most of the coverage I've seen:
The far-reaching order, which marks a sharp reversal of decades' worth of American policy, also slashed the annual target for the number of refugees accepted to 50,000, down from the original 110,000 for fiscal 2017 set by Barack Obama, and from the 85,000 refugees accepted in fiscal 2016. (The Obama administration consistently admitted around 75,000 refugees per year; only George W. Bush was stingier over the past 40 years.) In other words: We're not just shutting down Muslim immigration. We're closing the door to people fleeing war, poverty, and oppression everywhere.

Last one out, turn out the lights at the Statue of Liberty.

FYI: Trump, Immigrants, and Crimes

NYT:

A central point of an executive order President Trump signed on Wednesday — and a mainstay of his campaign speeches — is the view that undocumented immigrants pose a threat to public safety.  But several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.  “There’s no way I can mess with the numbers to get a different conclusion,” said Alex Nowrasteh, immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, which advocates more liberal immigration laws.

About Christians, Refugees, and Trump

If you call yourself Christian and you're OK with Trump working to save Syrian Christians while banning Syrians of other religions, then Christianity is not your faith, it is not your religion, and it's certainly not your relationship with Jesus.

It's just a tribe. Just a way of dividing us from them. Little could be more profane.

The Trump Era: Refugees

I've spent a decade offering my opinions in public forums, but I don't feel quite equal to this moment. Some of this is sheer flood of outrages — I'm just comprehending one when the next comes along. Which feels like my insights about the Trump Era are often limited to:

This is wrong.
This is wrong.
This is wrong.
This is wrong.

So let's be clear: It's not wrong to want to vet refugees, with a high degree of confidence but also within reason, to try to ensure they won't be a threat to their neighbors in the U.S. We have every right to expect the government will do so.

But to say "no" to refugees entirely — without any effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, but to assign a collective punishment to people already fleeing danger — is not the mark of a great nation. It is a cowardly act. Cowardly. I am ashamed of what my government is doing today. This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong. 

Donald Trump Is Turning America Into a "Watchmen" Comic

NYT:
On Thursday, the group of scientists who orchestrate the Doomsday Clock, a symbolic instrument informing the public when the earth is facing imminent disaster, moved its minute hand to two and a half minutes before the final hour.  It was the closest the clock had been to midnight since 1953, the year after the United States and the Soviet Union conducted competing tests of the hydrogen bomb. Why? "In an op-ed for The New York Times, Mr. Titley and Mr. Krauss elaborated on their concerns, citing the increasing threats of nuclear weapons and climate change, as well as President Trump’s pledges to impede what they see as progress on both fronts, as reasons for moving the clock closer to midnight."

About the Twitter Rebellion

So about the Twitter rebellion apparently being mounted by social media managers at various government agencies...

There's a theory within conservatism that America's "administrative state" — basically, your mid-level federal bureaucrats — has become an unaccountable tyrant, both by virtue of issue regulations independently of Congress and, through unionizing, becoming a political force that politicians must appease instead of their own constituents.

A lot of people who hold to that theory signed on to the Trump Bandwagon pretty early in the process, believing that he alone had the chance to smash the bureaucracy and return American government to its more accountable roots. And Congress' move this session to make it easy to punish individual federal workers is of a piece with that theory. So is Trump's hiring freeze for federal workers.

All of which is to say this: Enjoy the Twitter Rebellion while you can, if you're so inclined.  But the odds are it can&…

Slowing Down

I'm edging my way back into social media. But it's kind of like edging your way back into the path of a fire hydrant: You can't get just a little wet — you're going to get soaked on contact.

Anyway, here's the mantra I'm trying to live by right now:

You don't have to express your opinion about everything.
You don't have to express your opinion about everything.
You don't have to express your opinion about everything.

It's possible, in fact, that the more opinion I put into the world, the less valuable any one opinion might be. So. Trying to control myself.

(Pauses.)

If I were to have an opinion about shit that doesn't matter much, though, it would be this:

Gov. Pence shouted to his wife, Karen, his closest adviser, at the other end of the table. "Mother, Mother, who prepared our meal this evening?" The legislators looked at one another, speaking with their eyes: He just called his wife "Mother." Maybe it was a joke, the legi…

Yoga

I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Hey David Brooks, Here's Why a Diverse Media Should Matter

David Brooks this morning:
But now progressives seem intent on doubling down on exactly what has doomed them so often. Lilla pointed out that identity politics isolates progressives from the wider country: “The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life.” There's a contradiction in the Lilla-via-Brooks complaint.

How diverse is the press? Not very.  It's pretty white. So. Diversifying the press is one way of producing people more aware of the conditions of "Americans in every walk of life." I'd hanker to say the same thing is true in the education arena, too.

Somehow, though, I don't think that's what Brooks or Douthat mean.

Quote of the Day: Philip Roth

New Yorker “I was born in 1933,” he continued, “the year that F.D.R. was inaugurated. He was President until I was twelve years old. I’ve been a Roosevelt Democrat ever since. I found much that was alarming about being a citizen during the tenures of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. But, whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

Social media break....

I'm two days into a break from Twitter and Facebook. I'm not doing anything so foolish as to say I'm "quitting" this time — I know myself too well, so I only intend to be gone a week. (Basically, this seems like a good time to slow my roll a bit.) There's been a little bit of withdrawal: The Trump Administration's penchant for "alternative facts" seems to require a response.

But it's getting one without me. Probably telling.

Other than that, it's been a fantastic weekend for reading and thinking without the need to spread word of my thoughts immediately. Some highlights:

• The New Yorker's article about El Salvadorans who've been deported back to their home country is infuriating, increasingly so at every new revelation along the way. Basically: Young people who are Americans for all intents and purposes — having come here too young to remember their home country — are deported back, where they end up serving as the cheap workforce…

Remembering Obama's Inauguration Day: Philadelphia 2009

It was my good fortune that, after a lifetime in Kansas, I found myself living in Philadelphia during the summer of 2008 — as it happens, working in an office one floor down from Barack Obama's campaign headquarters in the city. And one day late in the election, I rode the press bus as it joined the then-Senator on a whirlwind four-stop campaign swing through the city — culminating with a final rally in fabled West Philadelphia.

Obama himself wasn't too memorable. He gave the same speech, told the same jokes at every stop, the message modified slightly for each audience. ("Don't let them give you the okey doke," he warned the largely black audiences.)

What I remember about the West Philadelphia stop: It was the most black people I'd ever seen in one place at one time — probably the most I'll ever see again. And the mood, it bordered on religious. Not that these folks worshipped Obama, no. It's just at this point in the campaign, so much hope was veste…