Useful Idiots: ‘Conservative’ Putin Symps

Just a quick scan of conservatism’s Putin Problem:

Ann Coulter, March 15, 2017:

The No. 1 enemy of Western civilization today isn’t non-communist Russia. It’s Islam.

Washington Times, March 22, 2017:
“Cooling the anti-Russia hysteria.”

As the former Canadian diplomat Patrick Armstrong points out, as Trump Derangement Syndrome converges with Putin Derangement Syndrome into a single paranoid fantasy, folks may be concluding that if anti-Trumpers hate Russia so much, it can’t be all that bad.

Christian Science Monitor, December 16, 2016:
“Why Putin is suddenly gaining popularity among conservatives.”

“If you look at public opinion in the United States, there were pretty universal negative views of Putin up to this summer,” Darden says. “Then we had the Republican nominee sounding very pro-Putin, and the public shifted shockingly quickly.”

The Atlantic, December 12, 2016:
“Why Trump’s Republican Party Is Embracing Russia.”

Previous GOP leaders like Mitt Romney and John McCain described Moscow as an adversary. Trump describes it as a partner.

The Daily Beast, December 19, 2013:
“Why Pat Buchanan Loves Vladimir Putin.”

“Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative?” Buchanan asked, referring to the conservative philosophy that promotes tradition, limited government, and religious and Western identity. “In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?”

The American Conservative, July 17, 2017:
“If Loving Putin Is ‘Right,’ I Want to Be Wrong.”

With notable exceptions, the further one moves to the Right, the less anti-Putin people sound.

And so on.

Another installment of Arguing With Idiots

Re smoking: Do as I say, not as I do.

Yesterday afternoon concluded my two and a half days as the guest of Dallas Presbyterian Hospital, owing to escalating COPD–by which I mean an acute attack of being unable to breathe properly, against a baseline of a chronic inability to breathe properly. (It all sounds very clinical until you’re the one unable to breathe properly. It is terrifying.)

Even more than your average Joe or Jane, people prone to depression are also prone to rationalizing bad habits like smoking as unimportant–particularly the subset prone to suicidal ideation. The problem is, only a small minority of suchlike folks are ever going to follow through on said ideation; meanwhile, though, they often wreck their health (as well as wreck their lives in other ways, but that’s a tale for another time) with bad habits like smoking.

So here I am, in a cycle (cycle is the wrong term, since I am not bipolar, but it will have to suffice) that could be called Least Worst, Mood-Wise, dealing with the the consequences of behavior engaged in when the cycle was of a far less pleasant nature.

Oh well.

Do yourself a favor: Stop smoking before you get to the point I have. I wish I had video of myself being driven to ER, unable to breathe properly. I would gladly post it, embarrassment aside, if I thought I could persuade one reader that deliberately inhaling garbage chemicals is not such a bright idea.

Jaw-dropping excerpt from Trump’s roundtable with county sheriffs

White House transcript:

SHERIFF AUBREY: … And the other thing is asset forfeiture. People want to say we’re taking money and without due process. That’s not true. We take money from dope dealers–

THE PRESIDENT: So you’re saying — okay, so you’re saying the asset-taking you used to do, and it had an impact, right? And you’re not allowed to do it now?

SHERIFF AUBREY: No, they have curtailed it a little bit. And I’m sure the folks are–

THE PRESIDENT: And that’s for legal reasons? Or just political reasons?

SHERIFF AUBREY: They make it political and they make it — they make up stories. All you’ve got to do–

THE PRESIDENT: I’d like to look into that, okay? There’s no reason for that. Dana, do you think there’s any reason for that? Are you aware of this?

MR. BOENTE: I am aware of that, Mr. President. And we have gotten a great deal of criticism for the asset forfeiture, which, as the sheriff said, frequently was taking narcotics proceeds and other proceeds of crime. But there has been a lot of pressure on the department to curtail some of that.

THE PRESIDENT: So what do you do? So in other words, they have a huge stash of drugs. So in the old days, you take it. Now we’re criticized if we take it. So who gets it? What happens to it? Tell them to keep it?

MR. BOENTE: Well, we have what is called equitable sharing, where we usually share it with the local police departments for whatever portion that they worked on the case. And it was a very successful program, very popular with the law enforcement community.

THE PRESIDENT: And now what happens?

MR. BOENTE: Well, now we’ve just been given — there’s been a lot of pressure not to forfeit, in some cases.

THE PRESIDENT: Who would want that pressure, other than, like, bad people, right? But who would want that pressure? You would think they’d want this stuff taken away.

SHERIFF AUBREY: You have to be careful how you speak, I guess. But a lot of pressure is coming out of — was coming out of Congress. I don’t know that that will continue now or not.

THE PRESIDENT: I think less so. I think Congress is going to get beat up really badly by the voters because they’ve let this happen. And I think badly. I think you’ll be back in shape. So, asset forfeiture, we’re going to go back on, okay?

SHERIFF AUBREY: Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: I mean, how simple can anything be? You all agree with that, I assume, right?

PARTICIPANT: Absolutely, yeah.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you even understand the other side of it?


THE PRESIDENT: It’s like some things–


THE PRESIDENT: Sort of like the Iran deal. Nobody even understands how a thing like that could have happened. It does nothing.

PARTICIPANT: You shouldn’t be allowed to profit from the illegal proceeds. So if you’re going to sell narcotics and sell illegal drugs in our country, you also cannot profit from that. And so we seize those profits.

THE PRESIDENT: So do we need any legislation or any executive orders for that, would you say, Dana — to put that back in business?

MR. BOENTE: I don’t think we need any executive orders. We just need kind of some encouragement to move in that direction.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Good. You’re in charge. (Laughter.) I love that answer, because it’s better than signing executive orders and then these people take it and they make it look so terrible — “oh, it’s so terrible.” I love it. You’re encouraged.


THE PRESIDENT: Good. Asset forfeiture. You’re encouraged. Okay. Yes, sir.

How To Tell Your Family To STFU About Politics This Thanksgiving*

Find a way.


* (Title in honor of endless think-pieces on the Left telling you how to talk politics on Thanksgiving. IT’S A TRAP!)

About that California National Guard story…

What a difference six years make.

Sacramento Bee, October 2010: “Massive fraud at California Guard, officials allege”:

From 1986 until her retirement last year, Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe’s job with the California Army National Guard was to give away money – the federally subsidized student-loan repayments and cash bonuses the Guard is supposed to use to tempt new recruits and entice Guard members to sign on for another stint.

Instead, according to a Guard auditor turned federal whistle-blower, as much as $100 million has gone to soldiers who didn’t qualify for the incentives, including some who got tens of thousands of dollars more than the program allows.

That’s an entirely different perspective than the stories this week about the hardships suffered by those forced to repay incentives that they should not have received.

The article continues (emphasis added):

Early in the audit, Clark said, he became concerned that officers implicated as recipients or enablers of improper payments might attempt to interfere with his work. So for the first time in his career, Clark said, he became a whistle-blower. He secretly contacted the Internal Revenue Service and FBI.

“I don’t like grifters,” Clark said. “And I’m disgusted – at times, ashamed – to wear the same uniform as those who steal taxpayer funds or protect thieves.”

It’s quite a read. The article concludes (emphasis added):

His concern was heightened, Clark said, when he heard about California National Guard Maj. Jeffrey Nichols. Guard documents show that Nichols received $45,000 in loan repayments in 2008 without the required contract on file. The amounts exceeded program limits, the loan was obtained too far back to qualify, and Nichols’ officer commission date made him ineligible.

Around the time his student loans were repaid, Nichols was picked to head the national incentives program at the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. Nichols, who now works to reduce National Guard attrition, declined to comment.

Clark said he began to worry that the National Guard Bureau might exercise its legal right to forgive improper payments, to avoid embarrassment and possible impact on recruiting. At that point, he said, he contacted federal agents.

“I came to realize that this criminal matter would be multi-jurisdictional, and would require vast resources to investigate,” Clark said. “Soon National Guard officials will know this is for real and that there are no more lumpy rugs to hide stuff under.”

What an interesting choice to head the National Guard Bureau incentives program!

Also, the phrase “legal right to forgive improper payments” flies in the face of more recent assertions that the DoD’s hand are tied vis. possible forgiveness of innocent over-payments.

Three years later, via the Merced Sun-Star: “Guard figures involved in the incentive fraud”:

From 2000 to 2010, thousands of California National Guard members improperly or illegally received enlistment incentive payments. Guard audits to date have found that at least 115 service members – most of them officers – committed fraud or acted improperly. Following are some of key players who benefited from or led the problem program, which The Sacramento Bee exposed in October 2010. Many have faced discipline under the Guard’s current leader, Adjutant Gen. David S. Baldwin.

At that point (in 2013), the emphasis of the reporting was still on the fraud angle.

This week, the story suddenly reappeared, but with an entirely different cast:

From The New York Times comes “Soldiers Struggling to Repay Enlistment Bonuses Issued in Error,” with a particularly manipulative first paragraph:

After 21 years in the military, three deployments, and a roadside bomb blast that left him bleeding and unconscious, Christopher Van Meter got a letter from the Pentagon saying he improperly received enlistment bonuses and now owed the government $46,000

Similarly, from The Los Angeles Times: “Thousands of California soldiers forced to repay enlistment bonuses a decade after going to war”:

Short of troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan a decade ago, the California National Guard enticed thousands of soldiers with bonuses of $15,000 or more to reenlist and go to war.

Please forgive my cynicism if I read that as an attempt by the Times to frame the whole thing as apple-cheeked innocents, cruelly used by the war machine, in over their heads. The piece isn’t much for subtlety, any more than its headline.

And now, of course, comes the political fallout: “Pentagon: ‘Looking at’ National Guard bonus complaints” (emphasis added):

The Pentagon on Monday said complaints about California National Guard troops forced to repay old bonuses have “the attention of our leadership,” while a San Diego County congressman’s staff says current law allows waiver of the debt.

So we have a both a National Guard auditor and a San Diego area Congressional office both assuming a right to waive. Interesting.

I tend to agree with Josh Earnest and the White House, which doesn’t happen very often:

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday he did not believe Obama would support a blanket waiver of repayments, but said California National Guard members should not be held responsible for “unethical conduct or fraud perpetrated by someone else.”

Of course, that presupposes that said individual members were not among those who knew that the fraud was occurring, and chose to look the other way–or worse, chose to directly enable it.

But if you’d merely read the headlines, you’d likely have an entirely different perspective on this story.

Why I Love Twitter #6,497,712

This is even funnier if you spent hundreds of hours, in the day, listening to J. Krishnamurti. Suffice it to say that this gentleman is not exactly walking the walk.


Trumpspeak: Re-defining ‘fiduciary’

TrumpFightsAviIt just gets better and better. By which, of course, I mean worse and worse.

From CBS News, “Allies call Donald Trump a ‘genius’ if no taxes paid”:

The New York Times reported Saturday that the GOP nominee declared a $916 million loss on his income tax returns in 1995. This move would have corresponded to a tax deduction so large that he could avoid paying federal income taxes for “up to 18 years.”

Since missing the point has become America’s Pastime, much of media (both news and social) is fixated on the tax angle, rather than the loss angle.

The best slap-down of that misplaced feeding frenzy comes from Megan McArdle at Bloomberg. In “Trump’s 1995 Return Shows Good Tax Policy at Work,” she notes (emphasis added):

I mean, the Times story is true as far as it goes: Losing $900 million dollars may save you $315 million or so on future or past taxes. But astute readers will have noticed that it is not actually smart financial strategy to lose $900 million in order to get out of paying $315 million to the IRS. Most of us would rather have the other $585 million than a tax bill of $0.

If that paragraph was less than clear to you, please read (and re-read, as necessary) Ms. McArdle’s article in its entirety.

The idea that the carryforward and carryback provisions of the U.S. tax code are a “nefarious bit of chicanery,” as Ms. McArdle writes tongue in cheek, is the sort of thing that makes accountants smile a wry smile and scratch their heads–which is the bean-counter equivalent doubling over in raucous laughter.

So the question is, why is it “genius” to lose nearly a billion dollars in a single year?

Nice try, Rudy, but it’s not.


But the most fascinating part of this story, to me, was Team Trump’s response; they asserted that Dear Leader was merely fulfilling “a fiduciary responsibility to his business, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required” (emphasis added).

Obviously, somebody at Team Trump got more than a bit creative in their terminology.

The tax return The New York Times obtained was a personal (state) return, not a corporate return. (Trump’s “first and only initial public offering raised $140 million….A decade later, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, filed for bankruptcy.”)

Politico‘s Ben White writes, with a fair amount of definitional overkill, in “Fiduciary duty nonsense”:

There’s no evidence yet that Donald Trump violated any tax laws with his mammoth $916 million reported loss in 1995. But the claim by Trump and his surrogates that he had a “fiduciary duty” to his family and investors to pay as little tax as possible is pretty silly. Fiduciary duty, of course, applies to public company executives who have to maximize shareholder value by paying the lowest legal rate. But these are personal returns, not corporate returns. Are his family members going to sue him for paying too much tax? That would be … novel.

University of Delaware’s Charles Elson tells MM: “It’s a stupid answer. In a corporate setting you have an obligation to pay the lowest tax rate you can, but not in a personal setting. It doesn’t apply to his family. I think he misspoke on that one.”

White’s definition is as overly-narrow as Team Trump’s is overly-broad. I get what he’s getting at, but “Fiduciary duty, of course, applies to public company executives…” ignores all the other contexts in which a fiduciary duty applies. Perhaps in his haste to blow Team Trump’s idiocy out of the water, he accidentally made an “in this case” argument sound like an absurdly generalized, hyper-constrained definition.

Here’s one version of the broader definition (emphasis in original):


An individual in whom another has placed the utmost trust and confidence to manage and protect property or money. The relationship wherein one person has an obligation to act for another’s benefit.

A fiduciary relationship encompasses the idea of faith and confidence and is generally established only when the confidence given by one person is actually accepted by the other person. Mere respect for another individual’s judgment or general trust in his or her character is ordinarily insufficient for the creation of a fiduciary relationship. The duties of a fiduciary include loyalty and reasonable care of the assets within custody. All of the fiduciary’s actions are performed for the advantage of the beneficiary.

What “property or money” belonging to his children or to his employees is Trump acting as a trustee for?

So West is correct insofar that Team Trump’s use of the term in that context is absurd, notwithstanding his overly-narrow definition.


The funniest part of all this, though, is that Trump was supposedly exercising his fiduciary duty to his children and employees by losing money, while ripping off vendors, contractors, customers, depositors and investors.

But that is a topic for a future post.

CLA Radio 09/02/16: Tom Waits (repeat)


Back by popular demand for the Labor Day holiday weekend, ConservativeLA Radio will be a repeat of the Tom Waits show from June.

We’ll start in the early 80s-and be more biography-heavy–for the first 40 minutes or so, then we’ll move back in forth through time with more emphasis on the music per se.

When: Friday, September 2, 2016, 6:00 PM Pacific/9:00 PM Eastern.

Where: Duane FM in the Hughniverse.

Spotify playlist: It’s here, but omits a lot of bonus material–music only.

Twitter info: My twitter handle is @ConservativeLA, and the applicable hashtag is #CLARadio.

Set List:

Tom Waits: Second Hand Stories (documentary) – Clip 1
Rain Dogs (Rain Dogs)
Second Hand Stories – Clip 2
16 Shells From A 30.6 (Swordfishtrombones)
Second Hand Stories – Clip 3
Gin Soaked Boy (Swordfishtrombones)
Second Hand Stories – Clip 4
Jesus Gonna Be Here (Bone Machine)
Second Hand Stories – Clip 5
Time (Rain Dogs)
Second Hand Stories – Clip 6
Walk Away (Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards)
Second Hand Stories – Clip 7
Primus: Tommy The Cat (Sailing The Seas Of Cheese)
Les Claypool talks about Tom Waits and ‘Tommy The Cat’
Filipino Box Spring Hog (Mule Variations)
Fernwood Tonight introduction
Warm Beer And Cold Women (Nighthawks At The Diner)
The One That Got Away (Small Change)
The Part You Throw Away (Blood Money)
NPR Fresh Air interview, 2011
What’s He Building In There (Mule Variations)
Poor Edward (Alice)
Circus (Real Gone)
Frank’s Song (The Early Years Vol. 1)
Iggy Pop and Tom Waits (from Coffee And Cigarettes)
Big In Japan (Mule Variations)
Poncho’s Lament (The Early Years Vol. 1)
Tom Waits on Everything & Nothing – Blank on Blank interview (1988)
Jersey Girl (Heartattack And Vine)
Hold On (Mule Variations)
House Where Nobody Lives (Mule Variations)
Jockey Full Of Bourbon (Rain Dogs)
Diamonds On My Windshield (The Heart Of Saturday Night)
The Heart Of Saturday Night (The Heart Of Saturday Night)
Swordfishtrombone (Swordfishtrombones)
Old Shoes (The Early Years Vol. 2)
Downtown Train (Rain Dogs)
Induction, Rock n Roll Hall of Fame
Burma-Shave (Foreign Affairs)

Why Are Headline Writers Always Wrong?

Why Are Headline Writers Always Wrong?
The answer won’t surprise you in the least.

Bill Walsh, a copy editor at the Washington Post, once remarked that “Writing headlines is a specialty — there are outstanding writers who will tell you they couldn’t write a headline to save their lives.”

Given the rise of online news headlines that appear to have been written by interns wholly unfamiliar with the content of the articles their headlines purport to describe, such specialists must be a dying breed — all the more so if otherwise outstanding writers are sacrificing themselves in the effort.

I kid.

But what is a headline? Is it merely a way of fooling potential readers into thinking there might be nudity (ideally, a naked Kardashian) somewhere in the article?

The presence of breasts focuses the mind, as a wise man once said.

Wait, that was me. Never mind.

Wikipedia, which is never wrong (see also, “sarcasm”), defines a headline as “text indicating the nature of the article below it.”

Compact and descriptive. I like it.

Merriam-Webster, on the other hand, mutters something about “the title written in large letters over a story in a newspaper,” a rather archly narrow definition as to venue (what about magazines, websites, and the like?), but open-ended as to function (the function of a headline being, presumably, to give the reader an accurate sense of the article’s subject matter).

I’ll leave it to others to explore the wonderful world of what Derek Thompson at The Atlantic calls “headline tropes that multiply like viruses across the News Feed of your life.”

I’m looking at you, Vox.

No, what galls me are news headlines (or Twitter teases) that directly contradict news content — albeit in ways ranging from subtle, to so painfully obvious that they might be largely responsible for the much-discussed opioid epidemic.

Earlier this month, Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gave his Trumpkinist challenger, Paul Nehlen, a world-class ass-thumping, winning “80 percent of the vote with nearly 90 percent of the district’s precincts reporting,” Robert Costa wrote at the time.

The initial headline? “Paul Ryan weathers his primary but GOP’s populist storm still rages,” which can be seen in the article’s URL, although the headline itself was later changed to “Paul Ryan easily wins his primary, but GOP’s populist storm still rages.”

Winning over 80% of the primary vote in ones Congressional district is hardly “weathering” a “storm,” is it?

Why the hyperbole? Media outlets thrive in part on conflict (in addition to breasts), so “Paul Ryan barely notices human speed bump Paul Nehlen” might not optimize ones clicky metrics and suchlike.

Then again, maybe this has something to do with the rise of dumb headlines: “Scientists determine how much pot is in a joint. Here’s what they learned.”

I think the headline writer probably meant to say how much THC, but perhaps thought the acronym for marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient a bit too jargony, and ended up with an exceedingly silly construction instead.

And then there’s raging understatement: “Orlando Highlights Islam’s Complicated Relationship With Homosexuality.”

I bet it does.

But I shouldn’t complain about inaccurate, misleading, or overblown headlines. Things could be worse: “When a newspaper apologizes for publishing an accurate headline.”

The nail which sticks up gets a good pounding.

I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge all the headline writers out there who are masters of their craft: “Fans bewildered by lack of country music at CMT Awards.”

Well done. Well done, indeed.

Finally, there are the unintentionally hilarious headlines. For example: “Prince’s death raises numerous questions about his health,” which was so wonderful they changed the URL altogether.

And yes, in case you were wondering, the headline of this article was misleading. Anyone need a headline writer?

Call me.