This got retweeted into my Twitter feed today:

My BS detector went off immediately. So I checked, and it turns out this picture was taken 13 months ago, on October 16, 2015:

This is how crap gets spread on the internet. For nearly all households in Flint, the water is fine.

Great news from the Wall Street Journal!

Sectors Go Wild: S&P 500 Correlations Crumble

Financial sector makes pronounced gain as investors bet on lighter regulations under Trump administration

Among the sharpest collapses is the link between financial stocks in the S&P 500 and the broader gauge....Shares of banks, asset managers and insurance companies as a group have jumped 11% since election day as investors bet on lighter regulation for the sector under the Trump administration. The financial sector’s performance trounced other groups, such as utilities and consumer staples, each of which are down more than 3%.

I had heard that Hillary Clinton was a Wall Street shill and neolib corporate sellout beloved by all the big banks. But I guess not. The Wall Street boys sure seem to be pretty happy she lost.

Donald Trump on torture, February 6:

I would bring back waterboarding, and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

Donald Trump on torture, yesterday:

So, I met with General Mattis, who is a very respected guy....I said, what do you think of waterboarding? He said — I was surprised — he said, "I’ve never found it to be useful." He said, "I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture." And I was very impressed by that answer....It’s not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it’s so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But General Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say. I thought he would say — you know he’s known as Mad Dog Mattis, right? Mad Dog for a reason.1 I thought he’d say "It’s phenomenal, don’t lose it." He actually said, "No, give me some cigarettes and some drinks, and we’ll do better."

How about that? It turns out that someone just needed to tell Trump that torture doesn't work very well. Who knew?

Of course, Trump also said about his conversation, "I'm not saying it changed my mind." So torture is still on the table. In fact, it's not really clear what the worst part of this monologue is. I have three candidates:

  • All it took was one guy with an anecdote to persuade Trump that torture isn't all that great.
  • Nonetheless, he's still willing to do it "if it's so important to the American people." WTF?
  • He just assumed a guy with the nickname "Mad Dog" would love torture. I wonder if this is literally the only reason Trump wanted to meet with him?

Really, state-sponsored torture is a pretty easy thing to figure out. In movies, you can pretty reliably tell who the bad guys are because they torture their prisoners. I think that's true in real life too.

1Not really. He's a plenty tough guy, but he doesn't like his nickname. Mattis is a fan of Marcus Aurelius, owns a huge personal library, and is famous for telling his troops, "You are part of the world's most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon." He has also called Israel's occupation of the West Bank "apartheid" and added, "I paid a military security price every day as a commander of CENTCOM because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel." I wonder what Trump thinks of that?

Doyle McManus makes a point today about Steve Bannon that I think is obvious, but still hasn't sunk in with everyone:

Stephen K. Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s chief political strategist, has been condemned by critics as a closet racist and anti-Semite....Reporters have scoured Bannon’s past statements in search of a smoking gun (he hosted a daily radio show for several years), and have come up virtually empty-handed.

Case closed? Not quite. In stretching to paint Bannon as an old-fashioned racist, his critics overshot — and also missed the point. Bannon is more complicated, a whole new political beast. And because of that, he’s more dangerous than his adversaries in both the Democratic and Republican parties yet realize.

....His editors at Breitbart News, the conservative website he ran, said Bannon tried to keep overt racism out of the headlines. That said, he allowed plenty of dog whistles. An entire category of articles was tagged “Black Crime,” for instance. The comment section was “a cesspool for white supremacists,” a former editor complained. Bannon shrugged off any guilt by association. “Are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the “alt-right”? Maybe,” he told Mother Jones magazine. “Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe.”

So even if we give Bannon the benefit of the doubt on racism, he’s still presided over a website that deliberately indulges in race-baiting, presumably to build its audience. Is that better or worse? You decide.

I've written about this before, and I've already decided: It's worse. The David Duke version of racism may be repugnant, but for that very reason it's fairly easy to fight. There are just too many people who are put off by it.

The Steve Bannon version is far more effective. Partly this is because, yes, critics will overreach and discredit themselves. Partly it's because his more subtle attacks on "political correctness" don't put off as many people. Partly it's because he assures people they can have racist attitudes without actually being racists. And partly it's because his sub rosa approach is just plain harder to expose.

If the only people we had to confront were the David Dukes of the world, racism would be a whole lot easier to deal with. There aren't that many of them; they're mostly not very bright; and to give them their due, they actually believe what they're saying. That limits their political flexibility. Guys like Bannon are far more odious. He probably doesn't believe most of the alt-right's nonsense. But he's willing to sit in the background and cynically exploit it for personal and political benefit. That's about as vile as you can get.

Aside from the garden-variety conservative havoc that Donald Trump will wreak, the biggest danger of his presidency is that he'll someday encounter his very own Gulf of Tonkin. LBJ used the 1964 attack in the Gulf of Tonkin as a pretext to go all-in on the Vietnam War, and Trump could very easily find a similar sort of pretext to amp up his own authority in dangerous ways. But what is it likely to be?

That is an interesting point. And no, it hadn't occurred to me before. Iyad el-Baghdadi walks through some of the likely consequences of an attack on a Trump-branded property here, but I don't think he goes far enough. Something like this could be Trump's Gulf of Tonkin. And now that it's been pointed out, it seems almost painfully obvious that a terrorist attack like this is bound to happen.

Donald Trump has named South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as his ambassador to the UN. This is, as Dan McLaughlin says over at National Review, a little puzzling. It's puzzling first because it's not clear why Haley would want the job. And it's puzzling second because she has no foreign policy background and has criticized Trump in the past:

Does the willingness to hire Haley tell us much about Trump? I doubt we will see much in the way of ideology as the basis of any of Trump’s hires outside of the jobs that handle immigration and trade policy. Sure, it shows Trump hiring a former critic, but first, Haley endorsed Trump in the general election and stuck by that endorsement without wavering (unlike, say, Kelly Ayotte or Joe Heck, who now seem persona non grata with Trump); second, it could sideline a potential (if unlikely) 2020 primary threat by bringing her inside the tent without giving her a position of great influence; and third, it rewards an early Trump endorser, South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster, who will now become Governor and could run in 2018 as the incumbent.

Conservatives just can't bring themselves to admit what Trump is up to, can they? So let's cut through the chaff and go straight to Wikipedia:

Haley was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa in Bamberg, South Carolina, on January 20, 1972, to an Indian Sikh family.

Haley is a woman, and she's the daughter of immigrants. Trump wants a few non-white non-males in his cabinet, and he likely couldn't care less about the UN. So why not? He's not rewarding anyone and he's not worried about 2020. Nor does he care that Haley is bizarrely unqualified for a job that dozens of people would kill for. He's just checking off a box.

Trump's win was a victory against the malevolent forces of political correctness, right? So surely there's no longer any need to let political correctness stop us from pointing out the obvious?

Shorter Washington Post: Trump advisor and alt-right superstar Steve Bannon set up a charity in 2012 which was then used to pay nearly $2 million in salaries to himself and two other Breitbart writers over the next four years. Bannon supposedly worked 30 hours a week for the charity while also working full-time for Breitbart. The other two worked 40 hours a week for the charity. How did they manage that? "They all work long hours," the charity's spokesperson said.

Well OK then! In other news, Donald Trump's foundation admitted to the IRS in 2015 that it had engaged in illegal self-dealing. It also admitted that it had done this in previous years.1 Trump denied this all through the campaign, but it was probably an oversight. After all, he just signs the forms, he doesn't read them.

And in yet other news, the Clinton Foundation continues to have done nothing wrong, as near as I can tell. Funny how these things work out, isn't it?

1This presumably includes the Tim Tebow football helmet, various enormous portraits of Trump, fines paid to Palm Beach, etc. These are all things the foundation paid for that Trump should have paid for out of his own pocket.

For the print issue coming out in a couple of weeks, Josh Harkinson has written a definitive account of the alt-right. You should read it. Here's one particular bit I want to highlight:

The coexistence of racism and sexism in the so-called manosphere dates back to the dawn of the internet. One early men's rights site, Fathers' Manifesto, interspersed references to Warren Farrell's book The Myth of Male Power with calls to exile blacks from America.

[Alt-right pioneer Richard] Spencer readily admits that women make up a small portion of the alt-right, but he has also said that most women secretly crave alt-right boyfriends because they want "alpha genes" and "alpha sperm." He also believes women are unsuited to some roles in government: "Women should never be allowed to make foreign policy," he tweeted during the first presidential debate. "It's not that they're 'weak.' To the contrary, their vindictiveness knows no bounds."

Revelations of Trump's sexist comments and his bragging about grabbing women's genitals only helped forge stronger ties between the racist and sexist wings of the alt-right. After the bombshell revelation of the Access Hollywood tape, Spencer said it was "ridiculous" and "puritanical" to call Trump's behavior sexual assault, adding, "At some part of every woman's soul, they want to be taken by a strong man." Far-right blogger RamZPaul responded to the Trump tape by saying, "Girls really don't mind guys that like pussies, they just hate guys who are pussies."

A big chunk of the alt-right is populated by social misfits who have been repeatedly rejected by women and are bitter about it. This makes them suckers for leaders who assure them they aren't misfits. What's really happening—and this can be a very beguiling story—is that women toy with them and laugh at them as part of a deliberate ploy to emasculate strong men and keep them from their rightful leadership positions. Because of this, a bitter resentment of women runs through almost every strain of the alt-right.

I don't know if the alt-right is a truly important new development or just a passing fad—a new name for a lot of the same old resentments that have been around forever. But to the extent the alt-right is important, it's worth knowing how central this particularly toxic brand of sexism is to the whole movement—even if it doesn't often get a lot attention. This is also why it's not right to simply call them racists or neo-Nazis. A lot of them are indeed that, but they're so, so much more.

From the LA Times:

A Texas judge blocked President Obama's bid to expand overtime pay protections to millions of Americans on Tuesday, thwarting a key presidential priority just days before it was set to take effect. The Labor Department rule would have doubled the salary level at which hourly workers must be paid extra for overtime pay, from $23,660 to $47,476. Siding with business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Texas District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III halted it.

Hmmm. This sounds oddly familiar:

It’s the fourth time in 21 months that a federal judge in Texas has issued a nationwide injunction blocking one of President Barack Obama’s executive orders [actually, it was a federal regulation –ed]. The other Obama initiatives stymied in Texas courtrooms involved shielding undocumented immigrants from deportation, mandating bathroom access for transgender students, and requiring labor-violation disclosures by federal contractors.

....U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III in Sherman, Texas, rejected a request by the federal government to limit any order to the states that filed the lawsuit and issued a preliminary injunction blocking the new salary cutoff nationwide.

I guess that's that. If you want a local judge to block an Obama initiative and apply his ruling to the entire country, go to Texas. Apparently they're all willing to do it down there.

In case you're interested, here's the key paragraph from the judge's ruling:

To be exempt from overtime, the regulations require an employee to (1) have [executive, administrative or professional] duties; (2) be paid on a salary basis; and (3) meet a minimum salary level....The salary level was purposefully set low to “screen[] out the obviously nonexempt employees making an analysis of duties in such cases unnecessary.”...But this significant increase to the salary level creates essentially a de facto salary-only test.

In other words, exempt employees are supposed to be executive, administrative or professional workers paid on a salary basis. The salary level itself is included in the regulations solely as a convenience. It's pretty much inconceivable that anyone making less than $23,000 has any bona fide EAP responsibilities, so there's no point in bothering with the other two tests.

However, someone making $47,000 might very well have genuine EAP responsibilities. Thus, categorically excluding everyone under that level means that some EAP workers will likely get classified as nonexempt solely on the basis of a salary test. This thwarts the will of Congress, which specifically intended that EAP duties had to be taken into account.

That's the judge's ruling, anyway. I'll bet Obama is sorry now that he appointed him.

Ben Carson, one week ago:

Business manager and close friend Armstrong Williams said Carson won't join the incoming Trump administration and would only serve as an unofficial adviser...."Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency."

Ben Carson today, asked about his qualifications after being offered a position as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development:

"I know that I grew up in the inner city," Carson said. "And have spent a lot of time there. And have dealt with a lot of patients from that area. And recognize that we cannot have a strong nation if we have weak inner cities. And we have to get beyond the promises and start really doing something."

In other words, he has no qualifications at all. I suppose Trump finally found the one thing Carson wouldn't mind crippling.

The whole thing is kind of weird. My guess is that Trump is pretty desperate to get Carson on his team because he doesn't want the press to be able to say that his cabinet is all white. And Carson is probably the only black person Trump knows aside from Mike Tyson and Don King. But if that's the case, why not offer him HHS? That would make at least some borderline sense since Carson is a doctor. Or maybe Surgeon General. Or the Department of Commerce, since Carson has lots of grifting experience.

Still, I guess we have to look at this from Trump's point of view: