Friday links! All your old favorites edition

One fun thing about the collapse of western civilization is that all our old favorites are coming back. New Robocop movie? Hell yeah! Return of rompers and bomber jackets? Yes please. Sudden ubiquity of retro celebrities such as Kardashians and Donald Trump? Um…okay, I guess. Crass materialism that gives way to old-time bigotry and increasingly anti-democratic struggle for control of the security state? Wait, stop—that’s too retro for me. Oh, you set everything in motion decades ago, and now we must numbly watch it all play out as the events of the path frog-march us into a terrifying future? Well, okay, since you worked on it. Today is Friday, and it’s hard to be nostalgic for a past that won’t leave. Won’t you greet the old favorites with me?

First, the good news: Rick Perry is back, and he’s dumber than ever. The bad news is he’s Secretary of Energy. But the former governor and reliable gaffe machine took time off from shepherding our nuclear arsenal to educate workers at a coal-fired power plant in Maryland. “Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand,” Perry told them. “You put the supply out there, and demand will follow.” That’s, uh, not how it works. I would say his remarks are a testament to how deeply the Laffer Curve has become lodged in the collective frontal lobe of the Republican Party, were we not talking about Rick Perry here. He just does not know a lot of things. And yet he keeps speaking authoritatively, and he’s still wearing those glasses. It reminds me of this old favorite:

Ha ha! Anyway, such people now control all branches of government. But, in the townhomes of Washington and the editorial pages of the New York Times, Democrats are hard at work formulating a new political strategy—one that will win back the ground that they have lost. And eureka! They hit on something. It’s time for Democrats to move back to the center, Mark Penn and Andrew Stein write. The party has been losing elections because it has drifted too far to the left. Quote:

Central to the Democrats’ diminishment has been their loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party’s shift away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore manufacturing jobs.

First of all, how can tough-on-crime be a moderate position? The very phrasing is oxymoronic. Second, didn’t we just try this? If Hillary Clinton wasn’t a moderate, we’re going to have to replace the Overton window with a sliding glass door. Maybe just toss a chair through it and call the living room our porch. Who is this Mark Penn, anyway? Wikipedia will tell us:

Penn is a former pollster, political strategist, and author [who]…served as chief strategist and pollster to Hillary Clinton in her unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination for the 2008 presidential election…In 1994, Penn and [Doug] Schoen were asked to help President Bill Clinton recover from the Democratic Party’s dramatic losses during that year’s midterm elections. The pollsters urged Clinton to move to the center, emphasizing stepped-up law enforcement, balancing the budget, and other issues.

“What’s that?” Penn says, waking from his 23-year cryosleep. “Is it time to say my idea?” My memory is a little fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure that Bill Clinton’s second term was a big success, and Democrats went on to not lose the electoral college to an under-qualified confidence man who shifted the country dramatically to the right. Just like we did this year! Anyway, best of luck to the Democratic Party as it continues to chase Republicans beyond the rightmost boundary of what American democracy has ever known. Your moderation inspires us.

You can’t blame policy for everything bad that happened to Democrats in 2016, though. You also have to blame Lena Dunham. This spring, the young memoirist gave up her alarmingly well-known dog, Lamby, to a rehabilitation center in Los Angeles called Zen Dog. She had already documented his biting on Instagram and his maniacal barking in an essay for The New Yorker. Although giving him up for readoption broke her heart, Lamby needed more experienced help than Dunham could give, since he had “suffered terrible abuse as a pup.” Enter the BARC no-kill animal shelter in New York, who told multiple news outlets that Lamby was normal when Dunham adopted him.

“We checked the records for Lamby,” [shelter spokesman Robert] Vazquez told Yahoo. “He was ‘owner surrendered, not enough time,’ so we do not know where she got ‘multiple owners that abused the dog.’”

This is the problem with having a famous dog. An ordinary dog, you can say what you want about him. People don’t know. He ate your kid’s hot dog? Yeah, his previous owner used to hit him with a belt. But once your dog becomes a public figure—and especially once you have documented his story in a searchable public archive—you have to stick to one version.  If only she had not written an essay about how much she loved her problem dog, she might have more easily given him away. Here lies the central tragedy of Lena Dunham. She needs to be publicly known, but that’s a problem because she also wants to be liked.

I prefer comedy, thank you very much. Just when it seems like the world is getting terminally unfunny, Valerie Stamey comes back to sue us all. You may remember Stamey as the best thing that ever happened to me, or as the worst thing that ever happened to Ravalli County. When she took over as treasurer, she was a relative unknown. A year later, she was whereabouts unknown, as the county tried in vain to serve her with a six-figure fine for official misconduct. In the interim, we learned about her brushes with the law, her past alias, and her near-total lack of bookkeeping experience. She ghosted after investigators found over $750,000 in undeposited checks lying around her office, and it took the county two years to find her. But the joke’s on you, assholes! She’s been in South Carolina this whole time, and now she’s suing the county and several of its elected officials for $20.2 million: $240,000 in “lost economic opportunities” and $20 million in punitive damages.

I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Stamey for finally finding a lawyer as honest as she is. After Art Wittich, she is the second best thing that ever happened to Montana politics, and I welcome her return to my morning newspaper. God willing, this lawsuit will give her a second chance to bankrupt Ravalli County.

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