A fact is objective and unchanging, but what makes it meaningful? It is a true fact, for example, that Donald Trump is the first president in US history to have never before held public office or served in the military. But what does that mean? I might be saying he’s unqualified, or I might be saying that he brings to office fresh blood, untainted by the degeneracy of the political class. Facts are inert. It’s their contexts, that allow them to come to life and create meaning for us. Today is Friday, and it’s all in how you frame it. Won’t you pick out something tasteful with me?
Did you know that 37% of Montana families who are supposed to get legally mandated child support actually don’t? Arrears exceeded $147 million in 2013, and the state only collected 12% of it. Imagine if one third of defendants were ignoring any other kind of court order. It would be a crisis. But like smoking weed outside of Flippers or running over a bicyclist with your car, not paying child support is one of those things you can get away with. But if Sen. Mike Lang (R-Malta) gets his way, Montana will soon begin denying hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses to deadbeat dads.
That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but apparently it makes a difference. During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sarah Swanson-Partridge of Glasgow said her former husband went seven years without making his court-mandated child support payments. After a state agency threatened to withhold his trapping and fishing licenses, however, he paid off the overdue child support in one year. In addition to being too depressing to contemplate for more than a few seconds, this anecdote suggests Sen. Lang might be onto a low-cost solution for a sprawling enforcement problem.
But what if not letting deadbeat dads shoot elk actually hurt the families they don’t support? That was the objection raised by Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls.) Her statement merits quotation in full:
A number of people in this state that are in poverty, and lack of payment is not always because they don’t want to—sometimes it’s because they can’t. I’m really concerned if we strip away a person’s ability to provide sustenance through wild meat that is obtained by a great number of families through fishing, hunting and trapping in this state, I’m really concerned that we’re not helping families.
We were fools not to consider the many non-custodial parents who pay their back child support in the form of wild game. Either that or Sen. Fielder is contorting her brain to come up with a rationalization for her core principle, “all hunting all the time.” You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent.
While you’re at it, check out local anti-Muslim
bigot activist Linda Sauer’s letter to the editor objecting to last week’s column about sharia law. “This bill might not have been necessary if Missoula hadn’t decided to play the phony ‘we’re all so caring and loving here’ card,” she writes, “so a few people could pat themselves on the back for their good deeds and wait for the resettlement money to roll in.” Such contempt for caring and loving is a rare treat, but you can find it again a few letters down, when Ed Kugler complains that leftists “want your rights the way you want them, but those that don’t agree with you, well that’s where your ‘love everyone’ comes to an end.” I’m so sick of these lovemongers undermining the patriotic work of blocking refugees and praying in school. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!
President Trump took to Twitter this morning to condemn the leaks that have embarrassed his administration for the last month. After The New York Times reported that his campaign aides had repeated contact with Russian intelligence agents last year, citing “four current and former American officials,” the president tweeted that “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!” Compare this to the less real scandal of accepting the help of a hostile foreign power to become president, which is only mildly un-American. But Trump raises a valid question. When is it a betrayal of the United States to leak classified information to the public, either directly or indirectly through the press, and when is it a service?
Those of you who picked “three weeks” in your office pool on the first resignation of the Trump administration are about to get free cupcakes. Retired general Michael Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor last night, approximately seven hours after Kellyanne Conway told MSNBC that he enjoyed the “full confidence” of the White House. Why Flynn retired is unclear. His original mistake was to discuss sanctions in a phone conversation with the Russian ambassador to the United States back in December, when he was not yet a federal official. That conversation itself is not the problem; the problem, ostensibly, is that he lied to Mike Pence about it. But the administration has known he lied about it for more than a month. Here’s Conway admitting that while simultaneously claiming that this lie was the straw that broke the camel’s back:
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 14, 2017
It seems like the real problem is that people are finding out about the lie. But Conway has issued two contradictory statements on this issue in the last 24 hours—three if you consider the resignation a statement, since she was almost certainly involved. Between her, Stephen Miller, and the
shadowy blotchy Steve Bannon, this administration is turning out to be a real field laboratory for students of lying.
Donald Trump is the president now, and no amount of controversy or trying to wake up will change that. Yet he continues to insist that voter fraud tainted the election he won. Speaking to senators last week, he said that thousands of illegal voters were bussed in to New Hampshire to swing the state for Hillary Clinton. On Friday, Federal Elections Commissioner Ellen Weintraub called on Trump to provide her office with evidence of this scheme. He did not. Neither did his adviser/mouthpiece Stephen Miller, who appeared on ABC News Sunday morning to produce this masterpiece of dishonesty:
So now we need a term for the converse maneuver to Total Fucking Denial: Total Fucking Assertion. Stephanopoulos keeps returning to the question of whether the Trump administration has any evidence that voter fraud occurred, and Miller keeps insisting that everyone knows it did.
“This issue of bussing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics,” he says for the first time at :30. Over the next three minutes, he repeats this claim again and again. He also trots out the familiar statistics without substance—the remark that “millions of people are registered in two states” is particularly exasperating, since that doesn’t mean any of them travel to two states to vote on election day—but he keeps returning to his central thesis: everyone in New Hampshire knows this is happening. Everyone knows it so much that Miller doesn’t need to cite evidence. But everyone knows it. It’s very serious. Everyone knows it’s happening.
In Total Fucking Denial, the liar insists that something isn’t true despite overwhelming evidence. The man in this video—which contains swearing, mild violence, and a lot of high-register whining—gets caught going at his neighbor’s doorknob with pliers and a screwdriver but insists he wasn’t breaking in. There was something wrong with his door, he says, and he needed to take apart someone else’s to see how doors work. That’s TFD. There’s no way our burglar is going to convince the man behind the camera that he was only teaching himself locksmithing, but that’s not his objective. He realizes the situation will get worse not when the cameraman realizes he’s lying—since that’s already happened—but only when he admits he’s lying. That’s what TFD is for: situations in which the worst outcome only happens when you acknowledge the lie.
Miller takes a similar tack in the clip above. But his version of Total Fucking Assertion enjoys an advantage over TFD, in that you can’t prove a negative. Stephanopoulos cannot prove that voter fraud in New Hampshire didn’t happen. He can only demand evidence for Miller’s dubious claim that it did. Miller doesn’t have that, but he knows one weak form of evidence is just saying something over and over. He keeps repeating that “everybody knows” thousands of people were bussed in to New Hampshire to vote illegally. Stephanopoulos doesn’t believe him, but some people watching at home probably will.
That’s the other difference between TFD and Total Fucking Assertion: TFA is for an audience. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that you don’t need evidence to convince a lot of people. You can just keep repeating the same baseless claim, and eventually it will become well-known enough that it stops being a question of true or false and becomes a question of Republican or Democrat, real news or fake news, pro-Trump or anti-. Once people decide that a statement is political, they’re willing to believe anything. That’s what Stephen Miller is exploiting here, because he is a bad person. I hope he runs out of sleep medicine and has to think about it.