Friday links! Stop snitching edition


It is possible to live ethically within a civil society and still have an adversarial relationship with the law. At certain times, it’s necessary. As a weak and fearful decent person, I don’t engage in any illegal activities that rise to the level of felonies. I may exceed the speed limit occasionally, and curiosity may have led me to try cocaine ten or twenty times, but I’m not out there violating the social contract. Yet neither am I calling the police. When my neighbor parks across my driveway, I do as decent people do and complain about it on Twitter. Were I to become aware of some criminal conspiracy, I would keep it to myself. You know what conspiracy really extorts people and disrupts their lives? The criminal justice system—and we shouldn’t be complicit in it. Today is Friday, and people need to stop snitching. Won’t you see something and say nothing with me?

First, the good news: Former national security advisor Michael Flynn has offered to talk to congressional investigators about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, in exchange for immunity to prosecution. The bad news is they didn’t ask him. Flynn hasn’t been charged with anything. If he is suspected of wrongdoing—besides that thing he did earlier, where he misled officials about contacts with the Russian ambassador and had to resign—neither the House, Senate nor FBI has mentioned it. He seems to be rolling over preemptively. Of course, his willingness to snitch before anyone has charged him with anything suggests that he believes something he did was criminal. But at least he’s doing the right thing by ratting out friends and coworkers before he’s in real danger. This is the man President Trump picked to advise the nation on security.

Sometimes I worry meritocracy might be breaking down. On a completely unrelated note, Chelsea Clinton is rumored to be contemplating a run for Congress. Over at Jacobin, where Clinton mania is at best controlled with medication, Matt Bruenig has written this handy recap of her professional career. Spoiler alert: it’s not that impressive. In a certain light, it reads as an indictment of the contemporary American system. Even in shadows and soft amber, it makes inherited privilege look pretty ugly. Chelsea spent three years at a hedge fund run by a Clinton donor, then became a board member of IAC—the media company owned by donor and family friend Barry Diller—while simultaneously sitting on the board of the Clinton Foundation. During that time, she also got paid $600,000 as a “special correspondent” to NBC, in which capacity she produced a total of 23 minutes of aired footage. Earlier this year, Expedia—where Diller as also a senior executive—created a new seat on its board and installed her in it. Anyway, soon she will be in Congress. That kind of shit is why we fought a war against England, right there.

But people love the Clintons. Not enough people to make Hillary president or anything—but the right kind of people love the Clintons, and there are enough to continue their bizarre cult of personality, even after Hillary stuck us with the worst president in American history, maybe through her own incompetence. But did you see her leather jacket? It just goes to show what kind of resilient, no-fucks-given badass she really is. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Mic, which reports that “Hillary Clinton traded her pantsuit for a black leather jacket—and people were loving it.” Which people? Why, people who came up in a Twitter search for “Clinton” and “leather jacket,” of course. Here I would like to remind readers that Mic is the politics website for millennials, who preferred Sen. Bernie Sanders to Clinton by 17 points last May. Only one of those people is still involved in the US government.

Meanwhile, the guy who writes Dilbert has gone insane. Caroline Winter has written this long, hypnotic profile of Scott Adams, who at age 59 has gotten very into his abs, his 28 year-old girlfriend, and fellow “master wizard” Donald Trump. Praising Trump’s rhetorical skills, Adams argues that “intentional exaggeration is a standard method of persuasion,” apparently forgetting for a moment the English word “lying.” There’s something about the connection between Trump and rich divorced dudes approaching old age that I just can’t put my finger on. I’m sure I’ll think of it later. I’ve just been so distracted lately, dodging all this bullshit.

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