Mark Twain, in no way the Gary Cohn of his day
In 1882, Mark Twain published “On the Decay of the Art of Lying,” an essay lamenting the disappearance of quality falsehoods from the world. Twain’s complaint wasn’t that people had stopped lying. It was that they were lying poorly—”injudiciously,” as he puts it, which neatly captures the elements of both technical sloppiness and tactical unwisdom. “I sometimes think it were even better and safer not to lie at all than to lie
injudiciously,” he writes. “An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth.” I’m sure he didn’t mean that and only let his emotions get the better of him. But his words have become true in the 21st century: ill-conceived, injudicious lies—lies without even internal coherence—threaten to reduce all statements, true and untrue, to the same ineffectual broth. Today is Friday, and we’re all Just Sayin’ Stuff now. Won’t you stop even trying to make your lies sound true with me?
Last week, Montana’s sole delegate to the US House, Republican Ryan Zinke, voted to make transfers of federal lands to the states “budget neutral” for accounting purposes. This came as something of a surprise. Zinke has opposed land transfers throughout his career, going so far as to resign his position as a delegate to the Republican convention this summer in protest of support for transfers in the platform. Then, last week, he votes for item numero uno on the land transfer agenda. What gives?
Commander Zinke isn’t telling. He declined requests for interviews from the Indy, Montana Public Radio, and host of other outlets. Instead, his office released a six-word statement: “Ryan Zinke’s position has not changed.” I can think of two possible explanations:
- They actually said “Ryan Zinke’s position is UNCHAINED!” and the reporter hung up before she could hear the cheers and dance music as the congressman pounded a bottle of Goldschlager.
- They meant Zinke’s position in the federal government.
Right now, as I write this, he’s Representative Zinke. But five days from now, the Senate will likely confirm him as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. At that moment, his position will change substantially. He will move from the legislative branch to the executive, slipping the surly bonds of an electorate that holds land transfers in low regard. Zinke’s position has not yet changed, but in another week or so, he will be in a place where the regards of Montanans matter less. He will be in federal government, which this year will focus on dismantling federal government and selling its assets, cheap.
You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I’m going to miss Commander Zinke and his tireless portrayal of himself. Unless my man EG-4 shocks the world, Montana’s next representative in Congress will not be such a strong persona. Probably, he or she will not have killed even one person, much less many people in a war. They won’t appear on Fox News as often, if at all. And say what you like about Ryan Zinke’s policies, he doesn’t.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) endorses Donald Trump.
When former Navy SEAL and then-state senator Ryan Zinke ran for Montana’s sole congressional seat in 2014, he did not embrace debates. Under pressure from his opponents and a dozen local newspapers, he grudgingly participated in three, and he briefly pulled out of the last one. But that was a different election. Now Rep. Zinke is an incumbent. His Democratic opponent, Denise Juneau, challenged him to six debates in a May press release. The Zinke campaign was silent for a month, and we opinion-havers of Montana settled in for a reprise of the commander’s earlier reticence. But last week, just hours after Juneau issued a second press release noting his silence, he agreed to five.
Five! It pretty much doubles last year’s total of two and a half. It’s unclear exactly why Zinke’s attitude toward debates has changed, but in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, we’ve got some ideas. For one thing, he’s got a maniac at the top of his ticket. It’s going to take some nuanced messaging to convince voters that Zinke’s tough foreign policy and outsider image are different from Trump’s mindless aggression and general ignorance. Also, Commander Zinke’s “I’m a soldier, not a politician” theme gets less powerful with each incumbency. Now is a good time to add depth to his political image, and I’m glad he’s seized this opportunity. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.
An ISIS soldier poses in front of prisoners digging their own graves.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) is now selling “ISIS hunting tags” for $15 apiece through his campaign website. They come with the disclaimer that they are not government-issued hunting permits, so don’t buy that plane ticket to Aleppo just yet. Still, for the price of a large pizza, you too can feel like you’re at war with violent fanatics on the other side of the globe—and contribute to the re-election campaign of a sitting congressman. We’re not at war with ISIS yet. But plenty of people in Washington say we ought to be. Demanding military action against the Islamic State is a sure way to drum up support, whether you’re Zinke or Donald Trump. It’s also exactly what ISIS wants, according to this cogent analysis by Scott Atran in the New York Review of Books.
Saddam Hussein was not technically involved in 9/11, but you know he liked it.
“It was unquestionably the most terrible day of our age,” begins a News.com.au article headlined 30 pictures of 9/11 that show you why you should never forget. Fourteen years after I noticed the World Trade Center was on fire on my way to work, it’s still impossible to listen to other people talk about it. September 11th changed all our lives forever, according to a bunch of people who saw it on the news. Unquestionably, it was the most terrible day of our age, says an uncredited photo aggregator who was not at Hiroshima. Never forget, say people who remember where they were when they heard that a plane hit the World Trade Center, and it wasn’t lower Manhattan. Today is Friday, and events don’t have to happen to you to affect you deeply. It’s probably better they don’t. Won’t you survey tragedy from a safe remove with me?