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A Peek Under the Hood at the Koch Agenda

It’s hard to feel sorry for a guy like Kyle McKenzie. Knowing he’s the research director for Stand Together, an advocacy group owned by the Koch family, I’m not inclined to sympathy. But as a former advertising guy, who once sat through too many focus groups to count, I know well how consumer research can undo the best-laid plans. In McKenzie’s case, the plans were to figure out how the Kochs should handle HR1 — the massive voting rights bill now reaching the Senate — where they are once again on the wrong side of history. McKenzie was charged with finding ways to undermine any positive perceptions the public might harbor about making it easy for people to vote. What they were looking for was a message — any message — that might convince the public that the right to vote is overrated. We know this thanks to the amazing Jane Mayer of The New Yorker . Somehow, she obtained this eye-opening audio of a ten-minute conference call, in which McKenzie presents his research findings to
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Why Would 60 Minutes Want to Screw Up a DOJ Investigation?

For all its faults, I’ve generally regarded 60 Minutes as real journalism, practiced by real journalists. Even so, their political coverage of late has been irksome — with too much both-siderist nonsense delivered none too subtly. The lead story on the March 21 show , however, went beyond both-siderist, to what I hope I’m misconstruing as subversive. The thirteen-minute segment featured an interview with former Associate Deputy Attorney General Michael R. Sherwin, a career prosecutor who until leaving office two days before, was in charge of DOJ’s investigation into the Capitol insurrection. It was a jaw-dropping interview, at least to a non-lawyer. For thirteen minutes, Sherwin took us through the investigation in startling detail, pointing out some of the rioters in the Capitol photos, outlining the kinds of charges they might face, and generally getting viewers salivating over the prospect of righteous restitution. But to anyone in the legal profession, the interview set off

Merrick Garland is Living in Mitch McConnell’s Head

Last week, Mitch McConnell voted to confirm Merrick Garland as Attorney General. Twenty Republicans actually crossed the aisle to do the same, an amazing thing in this day and age. But without Mitch, it would’ve been just one more Kamala tie-breaker. The speculation is that this was Mitch’s way of telling Garland — and Joe Biden — that stealing that Supreme Court seat in 2016 was nothing personal. And it wasn’t. I have no doubt Mitch would have tanked anyone Obama nominated. Anything to further vandalize that administration. Garland just happened to be there. But while Mitch surely thinks, in his own head, that it was nothing personal, he knows Joe Biden holds no such illusions. Because when Mitch sabotaged the Garland nomination, he blew a hole through history, full stop. And for Biden that was personal. He was there, in the White House. It’s nothing new that the obstruction of that fifth reasonable voice on the bench was a major disaster, and it only got worse when Trump drew

Four Takeaways from the First Fifty Days

In just fifty days, Joe Biden has taken plenty of us — including me — by surprise. He is clearly rising to the occasion, displaying skills few knew he had. He has learned the trick of under-promising and over-delivering, and when he makes a promise, he knows ahead of time that it’s a sure thing. He also has an apparent gift for delegating the right jobs to the right people. He lets them do their thing while he gives them cover, benignly hovering above the fray. So far, it’s working. Let’s hear it for old white guys with something left in the tank. So the fifty-day mark seems a good time to step back and make a few observations, not so much about Biden, as because of him. Boring but Radical It was Ted Cruz, of all people, who nailed it, albeit unintentionally. In a tweet last week he proclaimed Joe Biden “boring but radical.” He was being nasty, of course, because nasty is all he knows. But to me, it was validation. After four years of total batshit craziness, it turns out b

The Numbskullduggery of the Capitol Rioters

I don’t often make up words, or approve of those who do. But “numbskullduggery” was irresistible. It came to me as I was thinking about the numbskulls who stormed the Capitol on January 6, as the dirt on them continues to populate the news cycles. So far, everything I’ve heard confirms what I thought from the start. These were mostly brainwashed losers, up to the kinds of mischief losers get up to, but on a much larger stage. Yes, some were organized, though not very well. Yes, some were armed, but hadn’t thought through the consequences. Yes, some had military training, but don’t seem to have been very good at it. In other words, numbskullduggery says it all. These guys were not ready for prime time. And when I say “guys,” I’m being gender-neutral. This was an equal-opportunity idiocy, and some of the women who’ve been implicated make me question my assumptions of female superiority. Some of these ladies are right up there on the numbskull-meter with their male counterparts, e

What the GOP Learned from The Former Guy

The Trump legacy is still a work in progress, but the outlines are already on full display. I tried to watch the Former Guy’s CPAC speech. I really did. I hung in there for almost two minutes before I needed a shower. But at least one thing came through loud and clear. In the last four years, Donald Trump gave all Republicans a license to lie, cheat, and steal just as much as their natures allow. And that license has not expired. Trump led by example, and they were happy to follow. We would now be hard put to find a single Republican public figure who doesn’t enjoy the ethical code of a playground bully. Every one of them now lives permanently in an alternate universe where cruelty, inhumanity, and death are policy positions. They see no Covid, no climate change, no dilapidated infrastructure, no racism. They see not a single reason why government should step in and do anything. Fifty senators are content to watch the country incinerate. Imagine what the Bi

Texas and the Myth of Self-Reliance

I don’t know much about Texas. At least, not the real Texas. But I certainly know the Texas mythology, going back to my first Davy Crockett movie when I was six years old. I also know that the Texas mythology is not inconsequential, because apparently much of the Texas electorate still buys into it. Or more likely, they’ve been sold on it. Call it the myth of self-reliance. It’s been passed down through generations in story, song, and John Wayne movies. It’s the myth of the rugged individualist, the free-range cowboy who goes it alone, the Marlboro Man making his own way in the world. It’s the Lone Star State, where the lone Texas Ranger single-handedly holds off a passel of Mexican banditos with one gun tied behind his back. The myth of self-reliance is currently being exposed for the fraud it’s always been. As with all myths, this one’s basis in historical reality was suspect to begin with. And as with all myths, this one continues to be useful, especially