the mission has little to do with what most Americans would call religious freedom. This is just the latest attempt by religious extremists to use the coercive powers of government to secure a privileged position in society for their version of Christianity.
.. The idea behind Project Blitz is to overwhelm state legislatures with bills based on centrally manufactured legislation. “It’s kind of like whack-a-mole for the other side; it’ll drive ‘em crazy that they’ll have to divide their resources out in opposing this,” David Barton
.. more than 70 bills before state legislatures appear to be based on Project Blitz templates or have similar objectives.
.. allows adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate on the basis of their own religious beliefs. Others, such as a Minnesota bill that would allow public schools to post “In God We Trust” signs on their walls
.. The first category consists of symbolic gestures, like resolutions to emblazon the motto “In God We Trust” on as many moving objects as possible (like, say, police cars).
Critics of such symbolic gestures often argue that they act as gateways to more extensive forms of state involvement in religion. It turns out that the Christian right agrees with them.
“They’re going to be things that people yell at, but they will help move the ball down the court,” Mr. Barton said in the conference call.
WHICH side are you on? Are you with Donald Trump, or with the Washington insiders who want to undo his election? Do you favor the legitimate president of the United States, or an unelected “deep state” — bureaucrats, judges, former F.B.I. directors, the media — that’s determined not to let him govern? Are you going to let a counterrevolution by elites bring down a man who was elevated to the White House precisely because the country knows that its elite is no longer fit to govern?
This is how the debate over Donald Trump’s mounting difficulties is being framed by some of my fellow conservatives, from Sean Hannity to more serious pundits and intellectuals.
.. But Trump is not actually governing as a populist or revolutionary, and the rolling crises of his first four months are not really about resistance to an “America First” or “drain the swamp” agenda
the various outsider groups that cast their lot with him
- working-class ex-Democrats to
- antiwar conservatives to
- free-trade skeptics to
- build-the-wall immigration hawks to
- religious conservatives fearful for their liberties —
have seen him pick very few difficult fights on their behalf.
.. his legislative agenda has been standard establishment-Republican fare — spending cuts to pay for upper-bracket tax cuts, rinse, repeat.
.. he’s mostly handed foreign policy over to his military advisers
.. Religious conservatives got Neil Gorsuch because he was a pedigreed insider. But they aren’t getting anything but symbolism on religious liberty, because Trump doesn’t want to pick a fight with the elite consensus on gay and transgender rights.
the establishment keeps winning:
- Planned Parenthood was funded in the budget deal and
- the border wall was not, the promised
- NAFTA rollback looks more likely to be a toothless renegotiation, Trump’s occasional talk about
- breaking up the big banks is clearly just talk,
- we haven’t torn up the Iran deal or
- ditched the Paris climate accords, and more.
.. populism needs a seat at the table of power in the West, and the people who voted for our president do deserve a tribune.
.. Trump is not that figure. As a populist he’s a paper tiger
.. too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them.
he’s not being dogged by leaks and accusations because
- he’s trying to turn the Republican Party into a “worker’s party” (he isn’t), or because
- he’s throwing the money-changers out of the republic’s temples (don’t make me laugh), or because
- he’s taking steps to reduce America’s role as policeman of the world (none are evident).
.. he’s at war with the institutions that surround him because he behaves consistently erratically and inappropriately and dangerously, and perhaps criminally as well.
.. there is no elite “counterrevolution” here for them to resist, because there is no Trump revolution in the first place.
Well, now the Trump team has its own dossier on Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s better sourced, convincingly written, damning in its conclusions — and its author is scheduled to start working at the White House on Monday.
.. In this telling, Putin sees the United States as a malicious, incompetent and disrespectful power, an obstacle in his relentless effort to restore and expand the might of the Russian state.
.. list six identities that they think make up Putin’s “mental outlook, his worldview” —
- the Statist,
- the History Man,
- the Survivalist,
- the Outsider,
- the Free Marketeer and
- the Case Officer.
.. underlying everything in this book is a vision of Putin as manipulator — he is “a master at manipulating information, suppressing information, and creating pseudo-information” — and as extortionist, deploying blackmail against opponents, allies and (take note here, President Trump) foreign leaders. “As he can fully trust only himself,” Hill and Gaddy write, “Putin applies extortionary methods to everyone else — basically mutually assured incrimination to ensure loyalty.”
.. Putin regards Russia’s post-Soviet stumbles of the 1990s — beholden to the West, rudderless at home — as an unforgivable humiliation he must avenge.
.. “Putin pledged to rebuild the Russian state, protect Russia’s sovereignty, preserve domestic stability and unity, and ensure national security,”
.. The tools at his disposal include deft historical symbolism
.. Every survived calamity reaffirms the special status of Russia in history.
.. He relishes inappropriate humor (testicle-related jokes, in particular, are a Putin specialty) and likes to make a show of dressing down subordinates or oligarchs. “The public loves to see him admonishing figures they do not like in the same language that they would use if they had the opportunity,”
.. Putin is a Free Marketeer in sort of an “Art of the Deal” sense.
.. “Capitalism, in Putin’s understanding, is not production, management, and marketing. It is wheeling and dealing.
.. Here is the Case Officer. Because of his 15 years in the KGB, Putin is skilled in “studying the mind of the targets, finding their vulnerabilities, and figuring out how to use them.” This is how he has managed Russia’s oligarchs, the authors say, using their wealth — and their desire for more — against them.
.. Participants in the system are not bought off in the classic sense of that term. They are compromised; they are made vulnerable to threats. . . . Corrupt, even illegal, activity will be kept secret as long as the individual continues to play the game.”
.. It is not clear, though, that he has a good sense of the West, or of the United States in particular. This country is an abstraction for him; he knows few Americans, and those he knows, such as George W. Bush and Obama, he does not like.
.. He believes all local protesters are driven by “fringe minorities and professional oppositionists, or by foreign funding and intervention.”
.. Does he believe that or, like other leaders we know, is he simply deligitimizing legitimate protests?
.. “Putin has spent a great deal of time in his professional life bending the truth, manipulating facts, and playing with fictions,” they write. “He is also, we conclude, not always able to distinguish one from the other.”
For coal country isn’t really coal country anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time.
.. But the number of miners began a steep decline after World War II, and especially after 1980, even though coal production continued to rise. This was mainly because modern extraction techniques — like blowing the tops off mountains — require far less labor than old-fashioned pick-and-shovel mining. The decline accelerated about a decade ago as the rise of fracking led to competition from cheap natural gas.
.. it has been a quarter century since they accounted for as much as 5 percent of total employment.
.. Their Trump votes weren’t even about the region’s interests; they were about cultural symbolism.
.. Donald Trump successfully pandered to cultural nostalgia