If you want to really understand QAnon, the ludicrous mish-mash of conspiracy theories premised on the idea that Donald Trump has been working in cahoots with Robert Mueller and senior military officials — and also maybe JFK, Jr., who faked his death in a 1999 plane crash to thwart the Derp State — to investigate and ultimately punish Hillary Clinton and, presumably, most other Democrats for running a massive pedophile ring, you should read Chris Mooney’s book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality.
Mooney, writing in Mother Jones in 2011, summarized how “an array of new discoveries in psychology and neuroscience [have] further demonstrated how our preexisting beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and even color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions…
This tendency toward so-called “motivated reasoning” helps explain why we find groups so polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal… The theory of motivated reasoning builds on a key insight of modern neuroscience: Reasoning is actually suffused with emotion… [It is often] a means to a predetermined end—winning our “case”—and is shot through with biases.
If you’re a normal person who’s followed Trump’s sleazy career, you’ve probably been shocked but not surprised by his conduct in office. Trump turned his father’s modest slum empire into an international brand through relentless self-promotion and an unending supply of bullshit. He never passed up an opportunity to cut corners, recruiting undocumented workers to build his buildings with cut-rate Chinese steel. He pocketed big profits from projects that turned to shit by stiffing investors and contractors. He ran blatant scams like Trump University and sold cheesy crap made in overseas sweatshops.
In other words, he’s always been a hypocritical, narcissistic grifter of the worst kind, and his America-First schtick on the campaign trail probably seemed like a ridiculous joke to you until the moment those early returns from the Midwest started coming in on Election Night.
But think for a moment how the past 19 months have played out for Trump’s core supporters — angry, disaffected white guys who are freaked out by the country’s shifting demographics and blame those people for the fact that their incomes have been stagnant or declining for a generation or two and their kids are hooked on opioids.
Put yourself in their shoes (I know it’s unpleasant). You’d pinned all your hopes on this guy. He was going to drain the swamp and revitalize coal mining and bring his brilliant negotiating skills to bear on all the foreigners who are screwing us. He was going to be a true “jobs president.” He was going to stick it to the libs, people of color, immigrants — everyone you hate.
But since his first day in office, he’s run an embattled regime that’s been mired in scandals and under the clouds of multiple investigations. He’s delivered on the bigotry, but in a way that was a bit too obvious and made people call you out as a racist wingnut just for supporting him. And on the policy front, he’s really only delivered a big tax cut for himself, his noxious spawn and other rich people just like them. The economy’s strong, but you haven’t seen it — inflation has outpaced income growth over the past year. He’s embraced a former geopolitical rival that you probably spent most of your adult life fearing and despising, and while you may think his tweets are awesome, on some level you also know they’re kind of embarrassing.
In The Republican Brain, Mooney talks about a couple of studies that, while not definitive, suggest that conservatives tend to be more sensitive to cognitive dissonance than liberals. Holding two contradictory thoughts in their heads causes them pain and anxiety.
When you factor in how his base has been conditioned for so many years to believe that reality is often obscured by the corrupt Lügenpresse, it’s easy to see how this crackpotty QAnon stuff has taken hold. Of course he must be some kind of super-spy who will lock up your enemies in Gitmo any day now. It’s a necessary delusion for staving off the psychic agony that would come from acknowledging that you hung all your hopes and dreams on an erratic, wannabe-elitist doofus who sees the presidency as another opportunity to advance his brand and turn a shady profit.
Anyway, let us in the reality-based community review some of this week’s less prominent dumpster fires…
Embracing the reality of Trumpism means acknowledging the myriad ways in which he’s broadened and deepened the swamp. Consider just a week of headlines about how his regime has made life easier for the plutocracy by giving them opportunities to fuck over working America — in some cases, disproportionately targeting Trump’s own credulous base.
“The Trump administration is planning to suspend routine examinations of lenders for violations of the Military Lending Act, which was devised to protect military service members and their families from financial fraud, predatory loans and credit card gouging,” reported The New York Times this week. According to the exit polls, military veterans voted for Trump by a 2-1 ratio.
A tangentially related story that did get prominent coverage this week was ProPublica’s report about how three of Trump’s “cronies” from Mar-a-Lago who have never “served in the U.S. military or government” are “exerting sweeping influence” on the regime’s policies for veterans.
In the latest of her many rollbacks of Obama-era rules designed to protect students from for-profit college scams — like Trump’s own defunct university — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced plans to kill the “gainful employment rule,” which “sought to punish for-profit college programs that left graduates with heavy debt compared to their incomes.”
According to Collin Binkley at The New Republic, it was “the second planned rollback of a major Obama-era rule in a matter of weeks. On July 25, DeVos proposed changes to the so-called borrower defense rule to toughen the process by which defrauded students can get their loans erased.”
Here’s a story that illustrates how the regime’s priorities are playing out in the real world.
According to Capital& Main, the regime’s “immigration crackdown appears to be crowding out other law enforcement priorities, according to a new analysis of Justice Department data.”
A study released Monday by Syracuse University researchers showed that federal immigration prosecutions in June comprised 94 percent of all cases in the five U.S. Attorney districts along the southwest border. The spike in immigration prosecutions comes only a few months after Justice Department data showed that the Trump administration has overseen a 20-year low in white-collar criminal prosecutions.
So they’re punishing brown people who are just trying to earn a living, and letting the criminals in tailored suits run amok. And the sad truth is that many working-class Trump supporters would probably approve.
The Trump administration moved on Wednesday to shrink a government agency tasked with identifying looming financial risks, notifying around 40 staff members they would be laid off, according to a person familiar with the change.
The Office of Financial Research “provides a critical function by gathering data on areas such as banking, lending and trading from the country’s complex web of federal and state regulators to provide a bird’s-eye view of system-wide risks,” and is “one of several financial regulators being overhauled under President Donald Trump, including the Financial Stability Oversight Council, also housed within the Treasury, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
And then there’s this fresh Hell…
Holy moley! Treasury & the IRS just exempted *bankers* from the definition of “financial services” in the proposed pass-thru regs! I can lend via a passthrough & claim a 20% deduction (so the top rate on interest income goes from 37% to 29.6%)? #PickedTheWrongProfession
— Daniel Hemel (@DanielJHemel) August 8, 2018
In other news, we’ve noted before that we kind of miss Scott Pruitt because his unique blend of cheap sanctimony and unbridled corruption brought a lot of media attention to how the EPA has gone rogue under Trump. But apparently even after resigning in disgrace, Pruitt’s a gift that keeps on giving.
“A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the Trump administration endangered public health by keeping the widely used pesticide chlorpyrifos on the market despite extensive scientific evidence that even tiny levels of exposure can harm babies’ brains,” reported the Associated Press this week. The court ruled that Pruitt had “violated federal law by ignoring the conclusions of agency scientists that chlorpyrifos is harmful.”
In related news, Lisa Friedman reported for The New York Times that “top officials at the Environmental Protection Agency pushed through a measure to review applications for using asbestos in consumer products, and did so over the objections of E.P.A.’s in-house scientists and lawyers.”
In this next graph, we see how The Times in-house style requires characterizing obviously bullshit claims — claims hotly refuted by the agency’s own scientists, according to the story — as just one side of a “spirited debate”:
“The E.P.A. says it is toughening oversight. However, the way its new rule is written has spawned a spirited debate over whether it will actually make it easier for asbestos to come back into more widespread use.”
Meanwhile, in other rogue agency news, this week Gus Bova reported for The Daily Beast that back in July, “ICE crashed a van full of separated mothers” into a pickup truck in Texas, and “even though police said the van was too damaged to continue driving and the women reported injuries, ICE repeatedly denied the crash ever took place.”
Keep in mind that it’s all about law and order, folks.
As you probably know, the myth of widespread in-person voter fraud is just a thin premise Republicans embrace in order to disenfranchise Democratic voters. Back in 2016, researchers at UC San Diego found that strict voter ID laws “cause a reduction in Democratic turnout by 8.8 percentage points, compared to a reduction of 3.6 percentage points for Republicans.” That 5.2 percentage point margin wins them elections without having to come up with a popular agenda.
Here’s a new twist on that old story. “A new study estimates that approximately 78,000 transgender people in eight crucial states will be eligible to vote in the upcoming 2018 elections, but will be unable to do so, due to those states’ excessively strict voter ID laws,” according to DC’s Metro Weekly.
We try to leave you each week with some positive news, if only to keep you from ruining your liver by drinking too much.
The courts still appear to be functioning, according to this report from The Washington Post:
A federal judge in Washington halted a deportation in progress Thursday and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt after learning that the Trump administration started to remove a woman and her daughter while a court hearing appealing their deportations was underway.
The judge actually ordered a plane carrying the two deportees to turn around before they disembarked in El Salvador, where their lawyers say they have a credible fear being murdered. The judge also halted all other removals in cases with petitions pending before the courts.
And finally, at The Intercept, Ryan Grim reported that back “in April, Michigan officials who oversee elections kicked Democrat Matt Morgan off the congressional ballot, leaving the Republican incumbent, Rep. Jack Bergman, to run unopposed in the general election. That was the plan, at least, until primary day on Tuesday, when more than 30,000 Democratic voters cast write-in ballots in Michigan’s 1st Congressional District. That’s nearly eight times as many votes as Morgan needed to be resurrected and placed on the November ballot.”