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Now is not a good time to work in a school, the press, the judiciary, or the military in Turkey.

As the dust settles on the Turkish military’s botched coup, a crackdown has ensued that has spread beyond just finding insubordinate military men. Some 15,000 employees at the education ministry, 8,800 policemen, and 492 clerics have been sacked in addition to the 6,000 soldiers, 2,700 judges and prosecutors, dozens of governors, and more than 100 generals that have been arrested already.

Over 130 media organizations have been shut down in the aftermath of the coup, including 18 TV stations, three news wire services, 23 radio channels, 45 newspapers, and 15 magazines. Twenty-nine publishing houses were also shuttered. That’s in addition to a round of shutdowns by the Turkish government in previous months, including Zaman, one of the most widely circulated publications in Turkey.

A further 189 arrest warrants have been issued for journalists, according to Mahir Zeynalov, a Turkish journalist. In normal circumstances, such a mass roundup would be inconceivable. But the Turkish government has activated emergency rule for the next three months, a tactic repeatedly used by the Turkish military when it overthrew four democratically elected governments between 1960 and 1997.

The Turkish military made a monumental mistake in challenging the democratic legitimacy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party won an absolute majority in last November’s elections. Whatever its intentions, it has enabled Erodgan to further consolidate power and expand his zealous purge of his enemies, real and imagined.

March 24, 2017

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Here’s the scenario in which Trumpcare doesn’t crash and burn.

Opponents of the American Health Care Act had cause for optimism Friday morning. After days of wrangling, House Republicans still appeared short of the votes they’d need to pass President Donald Trump’s slapdash replacement of the Affordable Care Act. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the Appopriations Committee, came out as a significant No vote.

Trump looked ready to accept defeat, gearing up to blame Speaker Paul Ryan for what would be a crippling debacle. Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, was privately grousing that the bill “doesn’t drive down costs” and was “written by the insurance industry,” according to New York magazine. (Breitbart swiftly bannered Bannon’s comments in a splashy homepage headline.)

But as defeat becomes a more palpable reality, circumstances may change. All Republicans need to do is pass a bill in the House—any bill—to get over the toughest hurdle. After that, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may totally rewrite it to make it more politically palatable for the Senate. MoveOn’s Ben Wikler has been tweeting as much:

Wikler’s assumption is that the House Freedom Caucus caves both later today and when the Senate sends back its McConnell-written bill. This is, needless to say, a large assumption. The question is whether these Republicans (and others) see their fate tied to Trump, in which case they will pass the bill, or feel that they are better off on their own—in which case it dies.

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Donald Trump does not seem to mind if Trumpcare goes down in flames.

Trump took to Twitter this morning for some last-minute whipping—including this snide shot at the Freedom Caucus.

But Trump’s main pitch still seems halfhearted, especially coming from someone who the right-wing press loves to breathlessly point out is a “marketer.” This is how you sell a $49.99 watch on the Home Shopping Network, not a health care plan that less than a third of Americans think is a good idea:

But even Trump’s more forceful pitch—his, “I thought you guys were against abortion?” quip at the Freedom Caucus—suggests someone who doesn’t really care about the fate of this bill. The abortion language in the bill wouldn’t make it through the Senate and almost certainly violates the Byrd Rule, i.e. it doesn’t meet the standard for passing the bill through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. Every member of the Freedom Caucus must know that voting for the AHCA because of its anti-abortion language is folly.

Perhaps the weirdest development of the past few days is the fact that it’s become abundantly clear that Trump doesn’t seem to care if this bill lives or dies. The fact that 24 million could end up without health insurance is totally abstract to him. He’s barely been involved in selling the bill to Congress, and Mitch McConnell was reportedly leading the negotiations with the Freedom Caucus and others. (McConnell apparently thinks he can rewrite the bill to his liking as long as it gets past the first hurdle of the House.) When it became clear that Paul Ryan didn’t have the votes, Trump was literally playing with a truck—a reporter had to tell him that the bill wasn’t going to get a vote on Thursday.

Trump seems to know that he screwed up. Late Thursday The New York Times reported that Trump “has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.” This seems genuine, though it also hints at where this story is going: Paul Ryan will be blamed for the bill’s failure when it fails.

I should say if it fails. Either way, the White House doesn’t seem to care. In fact, losing may be the outcome that they want. Steve Bannon reportedly hates the bill because it doesn’t “drive down costs.” Others in the White House seem ready to move on, and have begun spinning this as if it’s a good thing:

This bill has been out for 19 days. And if Trump thinks he can walk away from this unscathed, he’s kidding himself.

March 23, 2017

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A sexual harassment scandal casts a shadow on University of California, Berkeley and academic philosophy.

John R. Searle, one of the world’s most renowned philosophers, has been named in a sexual harassment lawsuit launched by a former student, Joanna Ong. As Katie J.M. Baker of BuzzFeed reports:

The lawsuit, which lists Searle and the Regents of the University of California as defendants, claims Searle groped Ong in his office after he told her “they were going to be lovers.” He also said he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual,” the complaint states, and that he was “going to love her for a long time.” Ong turned Searle down and reported him to other UC Berkeley employees, but they did nothing, the complaint states. Instead, Searle cut Ong’s salary and she was eventually fired, according to the complaint, which also claims Searle watched pornography at work and made sexist comments.

The story raises questions not only about Searle’s conduct, but also the possibly enabling environment of Berkeley (which has been rocked by similar scandals before). There might also be a cultural problem with the discipline of philosophy itself. An overwhelmingly male-dominated field, philosophy departments have seen more than their share of high-profile scandals in recent years.  

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I have never enjoyed anything so much as watching Trumpcare bite the dust.

It’s hard to think of a bill that’s had a worse rollout than the American Health Care Act, which was hated by pretty much everyone from its inception. It was a big, unwieldy play doh ball of terrible ideas about health care that would make pretty much everyone’s lives worse, but especially the lives of the old and the poor. That it would make people’s lives worse without making health care any better or more affordable was almost a weird kind of accomplishment. But for these reasons and for others—conservatives wanted it to be even worse—the bill was widely loathed, a giant tax cut disguised as a health care bill that would turn back the clock a decade or more.

The AHCA has now flatlined. The House delayed its vote on the bill on Thursday, a tacit acknowledgment that after three torturous weeks of incompetent negotiating, they did not have the votes to repeal the hated Obamacare in a chamber that they control. The bill appears to have fallen apart after the thirsty right-wing members of the Freedom Caucus went to the White House to demand even more concessions and were rebuffed. But even if the Freedom Caucus had gotten what they wanted, the bill still may not have passed the House. There were signs that moderates would have balked, unwilling to sign their names to something that would likely die in the Senate anyway for being insanely draconian.

Of course, the AHCA is not quite dead yet. The House will take it up again either on Friday or early next week, and probably with significant changes that will make the bill even more regressive. At the very least, it looks like the Republicans will be stuck on health care for much longer than Paul Ryan initially expected.

More than anything else, this is an indictment of Donald Trump’s leadership and his presidency. This was his first big test and he failed it miserably. He was unable to whip the votes, showing no command over the issue, the bill, or the legislative process. His own deep unpopularity, combined with multiple bombshells involving his campaign’s involvement with Russia, certainly didn’t help things. But no one hurts himself more than Donald Trump, who, far from being the greatest negotiator ever, clearly has no idea what he’s doing.

When he emerged to make his first public comment on the no-vote, he was wearing an I <3 Trucks pin. Like a big boy.

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The media has essentially stopped covering climate change.

In a report released Thursday, Media Matters analyzed how the major news networks—ABC, CBS, Fox News, and NBC—covered climate change on their Sunday and evening news casts in 2016. The results are pretty grim: Compared to 2015, the networks collectively decreased the time devoted to climate issues by 66 percent.

Media Matters

It’s not like there was nothing for these networks to cover, either. In 2016, the U.S. entered into the Paris Climate Agreement, the landmark 200-nation agreement to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius. NOAA and NASA announced their findings that 2015 was the hottest year on record. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders squared off during the Democratic primary on numerous climate-related issues, like how to revitalize coal country, the Clean Power Plan, and fracking. And then there was the presidential election, in which the U.S. elected its first unabashed climate denier candidate.

Speaking of Bernie Sanders, Media Matters also found that he was a far more frequent source of climate change news than all of the network news Sunday shows combined.


The most likely explanation for this is that, in 2016, the TV news networks largely focused on Trump—Trump’s speeches, Trump’s election, Trump’s empty podiums. And Trump, of course, does not talk about climate change, because he doesn’t think it’s real or problematic. Now that he’s president, Trump is ignoring climate change in even more consequential ways—by choosing a climate denier to lead the EPA, and by proposing to stop funding any effort to fight it. Clearly, the Trump administration would like the media to ignore climate change. It should not give him what he wants.

Twitter

Here are some good sentences from Roger Stone’s insane letter to the press about Russia.

On Thursday morning, the 21st century style icon wrote a long letter in which he defended himself from allegations that he had colluded with Russian officials during Donald Trump’s campaign:

Here are some sentences from the letter:

  • “They also said Saddam Husain had weapons of mass destruction, denied torched at Abu Dhabi prison, lied about the attack on our mission in Benghazi and lied about third party rendition, they also lied about Iran-Contra, Vietnam and the Kennedy assassination.”
  • “I myself reported Guccifer 2.0’s role in the DNC hacking in a piece for BREITBART NEWS but and heard no suggestions that he was a Russian asset until recently, thus my banal exchange with him is unwitting even if he was a Russian Agent.”
  • “If pretty-boy Rep. Eric Swallwell repeats it makes this first term mannequin a liar.”
  • “Quite clearly my telephone conversations with president candidate Trump was bugged and recorded.”
  • “I have released my entire public and private twitter exchange with Guccifer 2.0. It is benign. Banal. Not exactly 007 stuff, complete innocuous.”
  • “Our breif Twitter exchange is almost six weeks after Wikileaks has published the purloined documents showing Hillary and her goons had to”
  • “Schiff looks like a pussy to me”
  • “Thus collusion would be impossible unless one owned a time machine.”
  • “I will deconstruct their lies and spank them like children.”
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Democrats will use the filibuster to try to block Neil Gorsuch after all.

On Wednesday evening, Senate Democrats were sending up trial balloons: What if they cut a deal with Senate Republicans in which Gorsuch gets through and they preserve their filibuster power for Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee? Per Politico:

The deal Democrats would be most likely to pursue, the sources said, would be to allow confirmation of Gorsuch in exchange for a commitment from Republicans not to kill the filibuster for a subsequent vacancy during President Donald Trump’s term. The next high court opening could alter the balance of the court, and some Democrats privately argue that fight will be far more consequential than the current one.

This is the kind of deal we’ve come to expect from Democrats. It thinks several steps ahead but loses in the near-term; then, when the moment of truth arrives, Republicans will obviously act in bad faith and kill the filibuster. Democrats get screwed twice over.

The left wing of the Democratic Party was understandably pissed when this story broke. But on Thursday morning, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer endorsed filibustering Gorsuch’s nomination, suggesting that the Democratic leadership is sensitive to the party’s progressive base. Maybe they also realized that Mitch McConnell is never going to let a filibuster get in the way of a Republican nominee, so they might as well blow it up now.

Gorsuch “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check,” Schumer said. He is “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology,” he continued. “He was groomed by the Federalist Society and has shown not one inch of difference between his views and theirs.” Whether or not Schumer will tie Gorsuch’s nomination to the ongoing FBI investigation of President Trump—something he has hinted that he will do—remains to be seen.

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Devin Nunes is an “act now, apologize later” kind of guy.

Today, it was reported that the House Intelligence Committee chairman apologized to members of his panel for his bonkers decision to go public with allegations (based on an anonymous source) that the Trump transition team’s communications were “incidentally” surveilled by the U.S. government, without briefing the Democratic members on the committee.

Nunes deservedly received a large amount of backlash for his stunt, especially from ranking committee member Adam Schiff, who stated that Nunes’s actions “throw great doubt into the ability of both the chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted.” It’s the polite way of saying that in Nunes’s speedy attempt to give Donald Trump political cover (which the administration quickly utilized) he acted like a rat, undermining a lot of his own investigation’s credibility—and, hilariously, increasing the chances of an independent investigation.

Nunes’s strategy seems to be to act first and ask for forgiveness later. However, he is even bad at that—Representative Jackie Speier, a Democratic member of the committee, said that Nunes apologized “in a generic way.

Scott W. H. Young (@heiscott)/Twitter

Dana Schutz’s letter asking curators to remove her Whitney Biennial painting is a hoax.

On Thursday morning a letter appeared on the Frieze website asking for removal of the controversial painting, Open Casket. It appeared to be a remarkably fulsome apology for the work’s transgressions, and it was welcomed by her critics. It included a call for publications to remove images of the painting from their pages. The press office of the Whitney Museum and Evan Moffitt, assistant editor at Frieze, have now confirmed to the New Republic that the statement was a hoax.

Over the last week Schutz’s painting, which depicts Emmett Till’s corpse, drew significant criticism and backlash. On Tuesday morning, artist and writer Hannah Black penned an open letter calling for the painting’s removal and destruction.

Although Schutz’s intention may be to present white shame, this shame is not correctly represented as a painting of a dead Black boy by a white artist – those non-Black artists who sincerely wish to highlight the shameful nature of white violence should first of all stop treating Black pain as raw material. The subject matter is not Schutz’s; white free speech and white creative freedom have been founded on the constraint of others, and are not natural rights. The painting must go.

As the New Republic reported on Wednesday, the painting went beyond the usual frame of appropriation. Schutz’s good intentions were overshadowed by a clear tone-deafness toward the politics of the case, namely Mamie Till Mobley’s decision to hold an open casket funeral for her son and thereby control his visual legacy.

In a move that Moffitt called “conspiratorial,” an unknown group emailed the publication using an email address that initially appeared to be authentic. Moffitt reported that the name used in the so-called “name field” was identical to Schutz’s own (Dana Schutz Studio), although the email address itself was not. Frieze’s Berlin office is currently liaising with Schutz’s gallery, CFA Berlin, to investigate who may have been behind the hoax. We have written to that email address for comment and are awaiting reply.

The hoax will only continue to stoke the flames of controversy around Schutz’s already divisive painting. Presumably the organization or individual(s) behind the act will claim credit in coming hours. Until then, we are left with a painting and a mystery.

Did Dems ram Obamacare through Congress with no debate? Let’s consult the calendar. Oh look! Republicans were lying.

Today is Obamacare’s seventh anniversary. It is also the day House Republicans will try to pass a bill that would repeal Obamacare—a gratuitous thumb in the eye of anyone who helped write or pass the Affordable Care Act, or who has benefitted from it since. The technical term for this is a “dick move,” but it’s also a useful marker for the journalism community, where it’s fashionable to draw equivalence between both parties, and treat all partisan spin as worthy of unchallenged amplification.

For instance, Republicans have claimed for seven years now that Democrats rushed Obamacare through Congress without debate, and will use this claim as cover for doing the same. 

But it isn’t biased to point out that this is false, and today’s anniversary underscores just how dishonest the GOP’s Obamacare opposition campaign really was. Every Congress runs two years. The reason it’s the ACA’s seventh anniversary, rather than it’s eighth is that Democrats didn’t pass the law until the second year of Obama’s first term.  Now that they control government, Republicans are trying to rework the entire health care system, too—but on a timeline that’s been abbreviated by a full year. So there’s no reason to treat spin that says Republicans and Democrats did the same thing as a matter that’s up for dispute. All you have to do is look at the calendar.