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Today’s column is about plastic straws, hamburgers and dishwashing detergent. Also Captain Marvel.
No, I haven’t lost my mind, or at least I don’t think so. But quite a few other people have — and their rage-filled pettiness is a more important force in modern America than we like to think. [..]
What do these things have in common? All of them involve cases where individual choices impose costs on other people. Plastic straws really are a source of ocean pollution. While nobody is planning to ban beef, flatulent cows really are an important source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. And phosphates contribute to toxic algae blooms.
But the rage seems to come from the suggestion that these costs imposed on others mean that white men — it does seem to always be white men — should consider changing their behavior, even a bit, in the public interest. Which brings me to Captain Marvel.
For those blissfully unaware of the issue, the latest superhero movie features a female protagonist, and the actress who plays her has expressed some mildly feminist views. So?
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is set to sentence Paul Manafort on Wednesday in federal court in Washington. Look for her to play it by the book ― which is precisely the opposite of what U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III did last week when he sentenced Manafort for a separate series of crimes.
Ellis’s decision to sentence President Trump’s former campaign chairman to 47 months in prison ― in a case in which the U.S. sentencing guidelines prescribed a range of 19 to 24 years ― has been roundly criticized both by prosecutors and defense lawyers. It has been cited in particular to highlight perceived systemic disparities between white-collar and violent-crime defendants in the federal system.
Those disparities are real, but they cannot begin to account for the caprice and the disdain for core sentencing law and policy that Ellis’s sentence reflected. [..]
The damage is done, and Jackson cannot, and should not, try to reverse it. But she can, and likely will, affirm proper sentencing policy. Look for her to impose a conventional sentence within the bounds of her lawful discretion, perhaps seven or eight years, and to make it run consecutive to Ellis’s 47 months. That’s neither harsh nor lenient — but straight.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was well aware she was going to create a sensation when she made a pronouncement to my colleague Joe Heim during an interview last week.
He had asked about the topic that is on everyone’s mind as Washington awaits the soon-expected results of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I’m not for impeachment. This is news. I’m going to give you some news right now because I haven’t said this to any press person before,” Pelosi said. “. . . Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it.”
It was indeed newsworthy when The Washington Post Magazine published those comments Monday. But it was not a surprise to hear Pelosi raise this sensible cautionary note — at least, not to anyone who has paid attention to her style of leadership.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is an equal-opportunity irritant. The newly elected congresswoman doesn’t just drive Republicans to distraction, she routinely riles establishment Democrats with her refusal to meekly toe the party line. Ocasio-Cortez, to the chagrin of many of her colleagues, has no interest in diluting her views and occupying a “safe” middle ground. If that wasn’t obvious enough already, AOC made her derision for political moderates extremely clear in a speech at South by Southwest on Saturday.
“Moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh,’” Ocasio-Cortez told a packed room at the tech-centric festival in Austin, Texas. “We’ve become so cynical, that we view … cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivety when … the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of vision. The ‘meh’ is worshipped now. For what?”
Tucker Carlson, the Fox News commentator with a primetime show and a history of vitriolic racist rants, is in the news again after the media watchdog group Media Matters unearthed recordings of him from the mid-aughts, in which Carlson calls into a radio shock jock program to make a series of luridly sexist assertions and racist asides, palling around with a host who goes by the moniker “Bubba the Love Sponge”. [..]
It is not especially surprising to hear Tucker Carlson saying disgusting things in these newly rediscovered recordings. Scandal is quickly becoming not only a frequent part of his career, but a seemingly deliberate one – after all, he is fresh off the heels of a number of his major advertisers withdrawing from his show, following his racist comments that immigrants make America “dirtier”. He has shown us who he is before – he shows us on cable television, every weeknight, for an hour. But he has also shown us something about ourselves, about the things we tolerate men saying to men, and about the ways that we are willing to sacrifice young girls to grown men’s worst impulses. These comments are controversial now, and they were disgusting then, but the Media Matters report does not reveal anything new about Carlson. After all, he made these comments more than 10 years ago. It didn’t hurt him then, either.