Two things stick out to me. One, that Williamson is writing that in the Dispatch, rather than at NRO, which pretty much says everything about to the degree which conservatives are willing to actually speak publicly about their own views.

And two, that we really do need to stop talking about what is and is not 'legitimate' protest and what is not. Protesting is, as much as speaking, part of America; the men and women who rallied against the British certainly didn't look at themselves and go 'well, we can protest these taxes, but only if we do so in a calm, rational manner.'

But that is also rather besides the point, isn't it? Because the entire exercise isn't even about what was being said anymore, is it? The issue is that every issue stops being about the issue and instead turns into meta-commentary about the visuals around whatever was being said. No one seems to care what he was there to speak about, no one seems to care what the protestors believed, all anyone seems to care about is 'well, were they respectful?' Which seems like commenting on say, MLK's 'Dream' speech by asking if he really had to wave his hands quite so forcefully while doing it.

Of course the judge looked for a fight. Of course the protestors were angry. We live in the age of content, and protestors who are not energized aren't really protesting much, are they? Why we decided 'well, protesting should be quiet and civil' is beyond me, because that's not much of a protest anymore than sitting quietly in your home with strangers is a party. Beyond that, everyone knew what they were doing going in; everyone got what they wanted. It's unclear why the media people are so uncomfortable with this truth, and instead of talking about what was said or debated, we devolve into some weird back and forth about norms.

Because when we discuss norms rather than speech, we end up with questions like 'well, if Scott Adams had called black people a hate group at a campus speaking event rather than on a livestream, it would have been okay.' That's where meta commentary gets you; a weird place where the manner in which things are said and the place they are said matters more than the actual content of what you are saying.

You could also extend this to lots of people and things, particularly on issues like trans rights, or even Trumpism writ large. So many people focus on the manner in which things are conveyed rather than the content of what is being conveyed, either because they agree with it but don't want to say so, or because they don't want to appeared biased by disagreeing with it. It's the very nature of both-sides journalism to focus on meta-narratives rather than the content of what is being said.

Which is how we're now at, what, week two or three on our meta-narrative analysis of one angry judge dealing with one group of protestors at an Ivy League college, when we've focused about a hundredth of the time on how states are criminalizing speech?

I mean, Florida just introduced a bill last week to make it a criminal offense for girls in school to discuss their periods, which is both creepy and a huge intrusion of the state into the lives of kids and families, but sure, let's keep discussing the meta-narrative and the optics of a one-hour speaking confrontation on an ivy league campus with a belligerent judge and some students.

Do people realize how utterly absurd the focus on optics is? How devoid of substance it makes your analysis? How entirely unhelpful it is to contextualize the greater issues at play in the world? We might as well be discussing Ukraine by saying 'well, the important part is how the president of Ukraine was dressed when he talked to Biden.' Oh wait, people actually did that, because that's the same thing: to focus on optics rather than the substance of what's going on to avoid having to grapple with actual questions and uncomfortable realities.

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Mar 21·edited Mar 21

I would like to understand why the actions of students on college campuses is always equated to "Democrats" or "Liberals." If you talk to these students they don't call themselves members of the Democratic party. It would be super helpful if people would stop framing them like they are Democrats.

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While DeSantis can revel in using the "When did you stop beating your wife?" routine, it's not the serious issue and the serious issue is not being discussed but it was on Maddow last night.

The Georgia legislature is passing a bill giving them the power to remove any prosecutor they don't like- period. That bill is on its way to the governor.

That's a very big deal and you well should expect it to appear in other GOP controlled states.

Very Very big deal.

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I'm going to date myself with this analogy, but with Desantis I'm increasingly feeling like it's the week before you start 8th grade and you've been begging all summer for a Member's Only Jacket, and your mom comes home and proudly hands you something called a Members Club which is clearly a Sears' knockoff. Your mom clearly just wants to get an annoying, nagging pre-teen off of her back as cheaply as possible, and is baffled and insulted that you can see the difference. For those of you who are of the wrong age, higher or lower, to get this, a Member's Only Jacket is a tacky relic from the 80s that was once surprisingly popular but now just seems increasingly sleazy, which in this analogy is standing in for a tacky relic from the 80s that was once surprisingly popular but now just seems increasingly sleazy, and in the other half off the analogy the GOP donor class is your mom.

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Trump is crazy, DeSantis is a fascist. It doesn't matter who is worse, they both need to be equally beat down. Playing the Trump is much worse card is a waste of pixels.

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Crazy is bad. No argument here. But so is malevolent and competent. I don't think arguing over which is worse is useful.

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In a replay of events following the MAL search, we have our first real-world studies of how effective Trump's calls for massive protests have been. Yesterday in NYC, at the courthouse and at Trump Tower, the handful of Trumpers who showed up were outnumbered by media by about 5:1, according to Ben Collins of NBC. Is it possible we're overestimating Trump's sway over his base, or perhaps, underestimating their weariness of his constant calls to arms?

When I read tweets like Ingrassia's about Baby Don, I can't help but recall the similar chest pounding from republicans about Papa Don in 2015/16. An indictment of Trump won't help him in the 2024 republican primary, contrary to what he and a lot of his propagandists are saying. But it will open up a wide lane for someone like DeSantis, who can present himself as the alternative MAGA candidate. And all the screamers like Ingrassia and Bannon will fall in line, just as they did for Trump. That's my opinion.

On the subject of shutting down political speech on college campuses, I wish the opponents of the right-wing trolls like the FedSoc, Kirk and Owens would stop simply reacting to the provocation, start thinking, and see the golden opportunity being handed to them to present their own cases. Rational cases, based in fact and law.

But I'm far less concerned about a bunch of college kids shouting down a speaker than I am with moves by governors and legislatures to wield the power of government against speech they don't like. One is annoying and stupid, the other is downright dangerous. The real threat to liberal democracy is the willingness of elected officials to misuse government in violation of the Constitution.

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12 y.o. me walked out of a public school assembly where a deeply conservative Christian exercised his right to rail at us about modern society & specifically the role of women. I left when he said women needed to grow their hair long for their husbands and be content with having babies. I felt & still feel these views (silly as they may be) were deeply insulting to my essence as a human being. I didn’t quibble with his right to speak as much as I felt I had a bigger right not to listen.

So while I appreciate Charlie’s argument for genuinely liberal speech, and I appreciate Bill Lueders’ arguments about how to handle hacks like Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens, I can’t blame anyone who resents and protests being forced to listen to someone who questions your reason for being. I guess I’m part of the problem.

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Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, the GOP are NOT hostages. They have had, as you yourself have noted, many chances to escape but they stay with Trump. The correct word for the GOP is that they are collaborators. This is the party that they have built over decades of 'anything to win' and turning a blind eye to the racism that they stoked. Hostages are victims and they are victimizers.

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The media cares more about optics than reality, example #546. The first paragraph of the NBC News article Charlie linked:

The political world waited over the weekend for Ron DeSantis to weigh in on the possible indictment of Donald Trump. And then waited. And waited some more.

That is not journalism. That is writing a soap opera. I'm too embarrassed for the people who wrote this article to be able to read farther. If you don't know the difference between crafting fanfiction and writing a news article, any Freshman English Comp student can explain it to you, NBC News.

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A question I wish Charlie would address: How has the Federalist Society ended up being an organization that's thoroughly opposed to Americans' freedom? Stanford's FedSoc should be ashamed to host someone so committed to curtailing Americans' rights. What is even going on there?

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"Crazy as a sack of ferrets" is the single best phrase I have read in weeks! And also the most accurate.

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It is both interesting and laughable that Scott Walker gets a shoutout for his take on Donald Trump being selectively targeted for prosecution. As if anyone cares anymore what he thinks. Walker had become a stale fart already when he lost to Tony Evers in 2018, and last year his endorsement of his former running mate Rebecca Kleefisch for Wisconsin governor swayed exactly no one, considering that a very flawed Trumpist candidate got the GOP nomination instead. Walker and Walkerism are long past their expiration date, and pretty much any informed, objective viewer sees him at this point foremost as an author of the sordid divide-and-conquer politics that have contributed so much to our nation's ills and enabled the rise of Trump and other GOP malfeasants. Accordingly, whenever he speaks now, take his word with a full shaker of salt.

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It's nice to see that Kevin Williamson is hinting at the uncomfortable truth out loud, that Donald Trump is mentally disturbed. Not so nice is to see him pull his punch enough to just graze the subject matter, when a full-on analysis is in order. We have waited too long already for the mainstream media to grow big enough stones to openly question Trump's mental state and provide scientific evidence that he quite likely is demented, deranged, or otherwise mentally incapable of handing not just the awesome responsibilities of the presidency, but also even those of everyday interaction with other people. If not now, when will we have this necessary discussion as a nation, forthrightly and honestly?

As the child of a parent with severe dementia, I see so many of the same traits in Trump. It is eerily familiar and just as unsettling. It never ends well for anyone involved and needs to be handled accordingly, both promptly and efficiently. Each day that passes without addressing this elephant in the room, for the size and strength that it has, makes it that much harder to deal with later on. Add to that Trump's outsized, longstanding personality disorders that aren't going away, most notably his utter narcissism run amok and constant need to be the center of attention, and it all becomes a toxic recipe for disaster, a ticking time bomb with a very short fuse. Why wait or, worse still, walk away until it explodes rather than try to disarm it, before so much unnecessary damage can be done?

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I am cross-posting this comment from today’s TMD over at the Dispatch. Thanks for making it easy this morning. Love when y’all hit similar notes to start the day. 😁

Let’s get the story straight, shall we? Calling this a “hush money payment” is like believing Bill Clinton was impeached because he got a blowjob, not for lying to (and asking others to lie to) Congress.

Stormy Daniels was trying to SELL her story, not keep it quiet. Trump et al we’re the ones who wanted to do that.

The Popular Information Substack summed it up quite well yesterday.

“ Daniels met Trump at a July 2006 celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. (There is a photo of the two of them together at the event.) Daniels says Trump invited her to his hotel room and said he could secure her a spot on his reality show, The Apprentice. She alleges that they then had a sexual encounter, which Trump denies. Afterward, according to Daniels, Trump would call her and invite her to other events, including the 2007 launch of Trump Vodka.

Daniels sought to sell the story about her alleged relationship with Trump to media outlets beginning in 2011 when Trump raised his profile by making baseless accusations about Obama and publicly contemplated a presidential run. Daniels gave Life & Style an extensive interview in exchange for $15,000. That would have been the end of it, but when Life & Style contact the Trump Organization for comment, Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, threatened to sue. Life & Style killed the story and did not pay Daniels. (The full Life & Style interview was published in January 2018.)

Daniels tried to shop the story again in 2016, when Trump emerged as the Republican nominee, but did not receive an offer. Everything changed in October 2016 when the Washington Post published the infamous Access Hollywood tape that featured Trump's lewd comments about groping women. Trump's sexual mores were now at the center of a closely contested campaign. And his ability to win the election hinged largely on Trump changing the subject before Election Day.

Dylan Howard, then-editor of the National Enquirer, reached out to Daniels' agent and asked her to make another proposal for Daniels' story. What Daniels didn't know is that David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, Howard, Trump, and Cohen, had reached a secret agreement at the outset of Trump's presidential campaign to work together to "catch-and-kill" negative stories about Trump. The purpose of the agreement was to boost Trump's chances in the campaign.

Howard reached a tentative agreement to pay Daniels $120,000 for her story. But Pecker had recently paid Karen McDougal, another woman who alleged she had an affair with Trump, $150,000. Pecker wasn't prepared to shell out any more cash. So Howard advised Cohen that he would need to take care of it himself. Cohen conferred with Trump and Pecker and negotiated a $130,000 deal to purchase Daniels' silence.

Daniels, in other words, never tried to extort Trump. Instead, she was targeted by a "catch-and-kill" operation set up by Trump and his associates prior to the campaign to hide damaging stories.

Cohen had successfully negotiated a deal for Daniels' silence, but he had a big problem: where was he going to come up with $130,000? On October 25, 2016, two weeks before Election Day, Daniels' attorney, Keith Davidson, told Cohen that he was canceling the deal and Daniels would resume shopping it to media outlets.

This put Trump, and his campaign, in a dire situation. Not only could Daniels reveal the story of her affair with Trump in the critical days before the election, but she could also reveal the botched scheme to buy her silence. Had the truth emerged in October 2016, it could have played a decisive role in an election determined by about 70,000 votes across a handful of states.

That didn't happen. After consulting with Trump, Cohen withdrew $131,000 from a home equity line of credit and transferred it to a recently formed shell company, Essential Consultants. The shell company transferred $130,000 to Davidson on October 27.

There was a great deal of effort to obscure Trump's involvement with the payment. In the non-disclosure agreement itself, Trump was referred to by a pseudonym, David Dennison (DD). A separate side agreement identified Dennison as Trump.

A few days later, Trump won the presidency.

Over the course of the next year, Cohen invoiced the Trump Organization $35,000 per month to both reimburse him for the payment to Daniels and compensate him for his role in defusing a threat to the campaign. Cohen was paid a total of $420,000 by the company, and the checks were personally signed by Trump.

The public first learned of the hush money payments to Daniels from a story in the Wall Street Journal in January 2018. Trump repeatedly lied about his involvement.

On April 5, 2018, Trump was asked if he knew anything about the payments from Cohen to Daniels. He claimed he knew nothing:

Q. Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?

TRUMP: No. No. What else?

Q. Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: Well, you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. And you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.

Q. Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don’t know. No.

Federal prosecutors determined the scheme that was directed by Trump and executed by Cohen was illegal. Among other things, the payments by Cohen, which were ultimately reimbursed by the Trump Organization, constituted unlawful corporate contributions to Trump's campaign. Cohen pled guilty to campaign finance violations and other crimes and was sentenced to three years in prison for his role.

Federal prosecutors declined, however, to prosecute Trump. This decision might have been based on an opinion by the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel stating that "the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions." But federal prosecutors did not charge Trump after he left office either.

Whether the same scheme also violated New York State law is a separate question. If Bragg decides to charge Trump, he will have to make the case in detail. But Trump's conduct was not unmeaningful, and efforts to hold him legally accountable are not outrageous.

Trump schemed to conceal relevant information from the voting public in the days before the election, engaged in an elaborate coverup, and then lied about his involvement. This deceit was a subversion of the democratic process and may have changed the course of history. ”

https://popular.info/p/why-stormy-daniels-mattersShow less

A d one last little fun fact. Per a book by former SNDY chief prosecutor, Geoffrey Berman, Trump was originally listed in the Cohen indictment as “Individual One” and was removed at the request of main DOJ.

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I feel like we have also been hostages to the craziness of Donald Trump for 8 years...hostages to the insane tweets and Truth Social blurts, to the radical right lies and twisted support for this guy. And I'm so afraid that we will still be hostages for the next two years or more. When will this hostage crisis end? Please God of political strife, help us survive.

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