Archive

December 14th

Beyond Pizzagate: These are the real conspiracies

    If there is one thing that I learned from Pizzagate, it is that we are working much, much too hard to find conspiracies.

    No one was hurt, thank goodness, when a man showed up at the Comet Ping Pong restaurant this week with a gun in an effort to free nonexistent children being held there in nonexistent secret tunnels. But can we stop jumping from zero to New World Order Child Sex Trafficking? There are plenty of obvious conspiracies RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES that we need to merely wake up and see.

    American history: "How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower?" Exactly. George Washington and George III having the same name cannot be a coincidence either. George Washington was a Mason. Just listing these unrelated facts in order should be sufficient proof. There is no way that we defeated the British, which is why, at the "surrender" at "Yorktown" (bad name for a place; sounds fabricated) they played "The World Turned Upside Down." Clearly, this was code. Why didn't George Washington have any children of his own? He only had one real tooth. He wore a stranger's teeth. This is all connected.

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What the Pizzagate conspiracy theory borrows from a bogus satanic sex panic of the 1980s

    Responding to incendiary, unfounded online rumors from paranoid corners of the Internet that Washington pizzeria Comet Ping Pong was the center of a child sex-trafficking ring led by Hillary Clinton and her confidants, Edgar Welch drove six hours from North Carolina to the city to investigate. After allegedly firing a rifle into the floor of the restaurant in pursuit of evidence of these nonexistent crimes, Welch was arrested and faces four felony charges, including felony assault with a deadly weapon.

    The restaurant's owner and employees had been subjected to escalating harassment and threats over several weeks leading up to this event. Nearby restaurants -- said by online conspiracy theorists to be linked by underground tunnels to Comet Ping Pong -- were also dragged into social media attacks and were harassed and threatened by anonymous callers.

    The tunnels, of course, do not exist. And there is no child sex-trafficking ring run by Clinton campaign officials out of a pizza parlor. The entire scenario is a fantasy dreamed up by feverish minds. And it is not the first time.

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Trump’s Inauguration Day Walk

    A few days ago I was in the capital, taking a last look at the White House under the present occupant, and trying to imagine Washington after all its sacred real estate is under new management.

    The air was crisp and clean. The monuments were aglow and festive. The inscriptions behind this great experiment of a nation were as stirring as ever. But there was no escaping the incoming blizzards of a man who will govern by Twitter tyranny and the blunt force of an impulsive executive office.

    One day, the president-elect took a shot at the First Amendment, urging deportation and prison for anyone whose freedom of expression includes burning a flag. Another day, he was played by a 93-year-old lobbyist, Bob Dole, working as an agent for a foreign government, Taiwan. And as I left, the soon-to-be most powerful person in the world was bullying a union man who dared to challenge him.

    It struck me, as a citizen-tourist from one Washington visiting the other, that it will take all the sentiments embodied in marble to contain the dangerous excesses of Donald Trump. Most everything inscribed in stone will be tested.

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December 13th

The White House doesn't have to be a bad place for moms to work. I did it.

    President-elect Donald Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, won't be going to work in the White House next month.

    It's not because she hasn't been offered a job, but because she has four kids. "My children are 12, 12, 8 and 7, which is bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea for mom going inside," she said at the Women Rule Summit in Washington on Wednesday. When men ask her why she's not joining Trump in the West Wing, she said, she tells them: "The question isn't, 'Would you take the job?' . . . but 'Would you want your wife to?' And you really see their entire visage change. It's like, oh, no, they wouldn't want their wife to take that job."

    I had a baby while working at the White House, where I served for three years as special assistant to and spokesperson for President Barack Obama and as deputy White House press secretary. Jobs at the White House are demanding and often all-consuming whether you have children or not. But I know from my own experience that it's possible to make these jobs more family-friendly than they've been in past administrations. The White House should and can be a place where working parents belong.

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The right has its own version of political correctness. It's just as stifling.

    President-elect Donald Trump has not been shy about the "big problem in this country": political correctness. Trump has blamed PC for the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando ("They have put political correctness above common sense, above your safety and above all else," he tweeted) and the rise of the militant group Islamic State. His voters agreed (indeed, it might even have been the reason for his victory).

    It's not just him. Political correctness has become a major bugaboo of the right in the past decade, a rallying cry against all that has gone wrong with liberalism and America. Conservative writers fill volumes complaining how political correctness stifles free expression and promotes bunk social theories about "power structures" based on patriarchy, race and mass victimhood. Forbes charged that it "stifles freedom of speech." The Daily Caller has gone so far as to claim that political correctness "kills Americans."

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President Trump should tweet less to be heard more

    Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election on Twitter. There, he created what the head of a major market-research company called "a continuous Trump rally that happens on Twitter at all hours." He attracted millions more followers than Hillary Clinton, garnered three times more free exposure than Clinton on social media and, according to the social media firm SocialFlow, made himself "the most talked-about person on the planet."

    Trump's ability to outsmart other politicians on social media also stands to be one of his most formidable weapons as president. But to be successful in his new job, America's tweeter-in-chief will need to use social media differently than he did during the campaign.

    The late political scientist Richard Neustadt famously argued that "presidential power is the power to persuade." The best way for Trump to convince officials to do what he wants will be to persuade them that doing so is in their interests. The same will largely be true for his interactions with foreign leaders.

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Ohio's new abortion law is an assault on Roe. Here's why it won't work.

    After years of finding themselves on the losing side, abortion rights proponents could hardly wait to challenge other restrictions. On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton even vowed to get rid of the Hyde Amendment, a ban on Medicaid funding for abortion that stands as the antiabortion movement's longest-lasting legislative victory.

    But before anyone had time to close the books on 2016, the opposing movements appear to have switched places. Antiabortion activists are now the ones with ambitious plans, as news from Ohio this Tuesday made clear. Energized by Trump's election, the Ohio legislature passed a measure outlawing abortion when physicians could detect a fetal heartbeat -- at roughly six weeks. Ohio lawmakers sent the bill to Gov. John Kasich, R, and it will become law if he signs it or fails to act within 10 days. There is no mistaking the connection between Trump's election and the Ohio bill. As the Ohio Senate president explained: "A new president [and] new Supreme Court justice appointees change the dynamic."

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Democrats' questions aren't so hard to answer

    There are two questions that Democrats must resolve as they confront unified Republican control in Washington. Neither should be all that difficult.

    The first is the much ballyhooed dilemma of identity politics versus class politics. It's true that Hillary Clinton ran a campaign -- "stronger together" -- that emphasized identity or, more accurately, identities. Her message was designed to contrast with Donald Trump's crude racial division, not his crude economic nationalism. Clinton's voluminous economic policies, which lacked a thematic frame, were lost in the effort to expose Trump as fundamentally unfit for office.

    Trump always had the crisper, clearer message. His racial appeal and his economic appeal were conjoined. He implicitly promised to restore the status of whites, especially white men, atop both economic and social pyramids. And he promised to do so by any means necessary.

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Judge on Trump's short list dodges tough question

    Here's a surprising headline you could have written this week: "Judge on Trump's Supreme Court List Allows Gay-Straight Alliance in Middle Schools." Yet remarkably, it's true. Judge William Pryor wrote an appellate opinion holding that Florida middle schools (grades 6-8) offer "secondary" education, and are therefore bound by a federal law that requires them to allow equal access to all extracurricular groups, including GSAs.

    The decision is especially interesting because the court had plenty of room to reach the opposite conclusion. The best explanation is that the court wanted to avoid addressing the still more controversial question of whether the First Amendment would require that such organizations be allowed in all schools -- no matter how old the students.

    The case arose in Carver Middle School in Lake County, Florida, during the 2011-12 school year, when students asked the principal to approve the formation of a GSA. The principal referred the issue to the school board, which created a new policy for middle schools.

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Ivanka Trump's meeting with Al Gore highlights the questionable role she'll play in Washington

    Donald Trump's incoming administration has a stated and demonstrated aversion to addressing climate change in any significant way. His transition team includes energy experts tied to the oil industry alongside climate change deniers. He's reportedly considering the CEO of ExxonMobil to serve as secretary of state. The current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency says that the transition team has contacted them precisely once.

    Trump's White House chief of staff Reince Priebus assured Fox News viewers last week that, contrary to what Trump apparently told the New York Times, Trump still thinks that most of climate change "is a bunch of bunk" -- but added that Trump will "have an open mind and listen to people." Trump's called climate change a hoax and repeatedly claimed that cold winters disprove the theory.

    Then, on Monday, the Trump transition's communications team had an unexpected update for reporters.

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