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Strange Bedfellows
June 6, 2019

Tucker Carlson appears to have a bit of a policy crush on one of the 2020 Democrats. On his Fox News show Wednesday evening, Carlson read large segments from an "economic patriotism" proposal, then asked his viewers who "regularly vote Republican" if they disagreed with any of the statement. "Probably not," he said. "Here's the depressing part: Nobody you voted for said that, or would ever say it. ... Instead, the words you just heard are from — and brace yourself here — Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. It's true."

Congressional Republicans, in thrall to Wall Street and "libertarian zealots," failed to learn from the 2016 election and never "understood and embraced the economic nationalism that was at the heart of Donald Trump's presidential victory," Carlson said. But "many of Warren's policy prescriptions make obvious sense," like buying American and encouraging workplace apprenticeships. "She sounds like Donald Trump at his best," he added.

Warren, who has gotten enthusiastic applause in the heart of "Trump Country," doesn't appear to mutually admire Carlson and his network, having described Fox News as a "hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists." And Carlson isn't going to rush out and endorse Warren — probably to Warren's relief. He said she is still a "race-hustling, gun-grabbing, abortion-extremist." But Warren is "clearer on economic nationalism than Mitch McConnell," Carlson said, and faint praise though that may be, it is praise nonetheless from a pro-Trump Fox News host. Just don't expect to see it in any Warren campaign ads. Peter Weber

May 28, 2019

Austria's parliament passed its first post-World War II vote of no confidence in the government on Monday, removing 32-year-old Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the conservative People's Party from office. The main opposition Social Democrats (SPO) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), Kurz's erstwhile governing partner, teamed up to sink Kurz and his government. Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen named Vice Chancellor Hartwig Loeger acting chancellor until he can appoint a caretaker government to lead Austria into national elections in September.

Kurz's governing alliance with the FPO fell apart after two German news organizations released a video last week of FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache apparently agreeing to fix government contracts for a woman pretending to be the niece of Russian oligarch Igor Makarov; in return, the Russians would buy a large stake in an Austrian newspaper that would then back the FPO. Strache stepped down as vice chancellor hours after the video was released, Kurz then pushed out Interior Minister Herbert Kick, and other FPO ministers resigned from the government in solidarity.

Kurz's People's Party won the most votes in European Parliament elections on Sunday, after the debacle with the FPO, and Kurz predicted vindication at the ballot box in September. When his party won a plurality of seats in 2017, elevating him to chancellor, Kurz was 31. Peter Weber

February 1, 2019

Smartphones are terrible — present company excluded, of course — and addictive, and studies are showing that those little screens in our pockets are detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing. This is especially true for children and teenagers. "Smartphones have made our kids dumber — it's measurable," Tucker Carlson said on his Fox News show Thursday night. "But they've also made our kids much less happy." Suicide rates and mental illness in teens "began to surge right around 2012," he added, "just as smartphones and social media became universal."

"Smartphone use makes your kids sadder, slower, and more isolated and, over time, can kill them," though if you've never tried "taking an iPhone away from a seventh-grader ... it's like trying to get a junkie into rehab," Carlson said. But he had a solution: "Parents need help, and there is no reason that the Congress, which made smartphones possible in the first place, shouldn't be part of the solution. So here's an idea: Ban smartphone use for children, pass a federal law tomorrow."

Comedian Neal Brennan agreed with Carlson about the awfulness of smartphones on Thursday's Daily Show. And like the generally anti-regulation, small-government Carlson, Brennan's solution relied on legislation. Unlike Carlson, he wasn't serious, probably. "I got my inspiration from another problem: guns," he said. "There are a bunch of great gun control ideas that we're never gonna use. That's when it hit me: What America needs is common-sense phone control."

"Our phones are just like guns: You think it's a good idea to have one, but statistically you're more likely to use it to hurt yourself," Brennan said, and he laid out phone-specific waiting periods, mental-health checks, and background checks. But like that seventh-grader, Brennan did not react well when Trevor Noah suggested he give up his phone first. "Typical liberal," Brennan said. "Trevor, you'll get my phone when you pry it from my cold, dead hands." Peter Weber

August 22, 2017

In President Trump's new Afghanistan War policy, laid out in a speech on Monday night, he pledged a deliberately unspecified troop surge, probably of about 4,000 extra troops, and declined to set a timetable for withdrawing the U.S. military from the country. Trump sided with the former generals in his administration rather than those advocating winding down the 16-year-old war as a lost cause, prominently his recently ejected chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, so perhaps it is no surprise that the foreign policy hawks in the Republican Party were very enthusiastic about Trump's speech ...

... while Bannon's Breitbart News vehemently disagreed with Trump's decision. Specifically, the writers and editors at Breitbart took issue with Graham and other conservatives that the policy was significantly different that former President Barack Obama's.

Democrats criticized Trump's lack of details or vision. And while the reaction at Fox News was much more positive, not all Fox News regulars were on board. Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio host once considered for White House press secretary and reportedly in talks for her own Fox News TV show, sounded almost like the Democrats.

So, 2017, strange bedfellows, etc. Peter Weber

August 29, 2016

Last week, Megyn Kelly broadcast an interview with Julian Assange in which the WikiLeaks founder threatened to release damaging information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and explained why he isn't releasing anything negative about Republican nominee Donald Trump. On Saturday night's Greg Gutfeld Show, the host posed this question about Assange to his panel of entertainers and writers: "Is he really concerned about the future of America or is he just doing this for his own sick satisfaction? And since when do we have the right to look at other people's secret stuff?... When is hacking okay? When it's someone you don't like, like Hillary?"

These are some serious questions, and the panel split, 3-2, in Assange's favor, with Gutfeld evening the score. Gutfeld's show isn't Fox News Sunday or Meet the Press — his panel was an odd mix of novelist and literary critic Walter Kirn, former National Security Council staffer Gillian Turner, professional wrestler Tyrus (George Muchoch, formerly Brodus Clay), National Review writer Katherine Timpf, and Jeff Dye, a stand-up comedian and reality TV personality, who hosted the MTV show Numbnuts — but their discussion is animated and pretty interesting, and it touches on many of the issues of privacy and security that don't always have clear answers. You can watch below. Peter Weber

May 11, 2016

A right-wing Hindu nationalist group in India is inspired by Donald Trump — and praying for his victory to Hindu gods.

The dozen members of Hindu Sena chanted mantras and burned a ritual fire of seeds, grass, and clarified butter for Trump's success this week. They are sympathetic to the presumptive Republican nominee because of his rhetoric about Islam, as tensions between Indian Hindus and Muslims have simmered for years.

"The whole world is screaming against Islamic terrorism, and even India is not safe from it," said Vishnu Gupta, founder of the organization. Giving Trump's slogan a globalist spin, he added, "only Donald Trump can save humanity." Bonnie Kristian

April 4, 2016

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are often cast as opposite poles of this presidential election, but when it comes to trade, immigration, and blue collar jobs, they actually have a lot in common. Both have promised to nix free trade deals and keep out low-wage, foreign workers to produce a blue collar revival in America.

"But many economists say that's little more than an appealing fantasy," Politico reports, because "[m]any, if not all, of the low-skilled, assembly-line jobs the two leading populist candidates talk about bringing back are gone for good."

So even if Trump or Sanders did succeed in forcing American companies to close factories abroad and open more at home, the new facilities would mostly "hire" robots. On the upside, however, as those low-skilled jobs have been automated, slightly higher-skilled — and better-paid — positions have become available instead. As a result, contrary to the Trump/Sanders doomsday rhetoric, American factory jobs have increased by nearly a million positions since 2010. Bonnie Kristian

February 20, 2015

Someone at Cadillac, or its ad company Publicis, is a fan of Brené Brown, a researcher who's made a name for herself studying the benefits of vulnerability and the downsides of shame. Earlier this week, the car company launched an ad campaign, "Dare Greatly," based on a 1910 speech by Teddy Roosevelt. Most recently, the quote has been revitalized by Brown, who titled one of her recent books Daring Greatly (2012). Brown noticed the ads, and so did her fans, she writes at her site. It wasn't entirely coincidental:

Cadillac sent me an email last week informing me about the campaign and letting me know that they were inspired by the quote, and particularly by my book. I am in no way involved with the Cadillac campaign. I'm not receiving any payment and I wasn't consulted or informed in advance of the launch. When I first learned about the campaign I experienced many different strong emotions — fear, anger, vulnerability — but mostly scarcity. [Brown]

"Scarcity" is the title of the first chapter of her book Daring Greatly, and it focuses on America's "culture of 'never enough'" — which is to say, the idea that we are always needlessly striving for something, and always come up short. Which is an odd inspiration for Cadillac. But, as Brown says, "Teddy Roosevelt's quote has been inspiring people for over 100 years," so why not luxury car makers? You can hear Roosevelt's quote in the Cadillac ad below. —Peter Weber

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