Thursday, February 22, 2018

GUN NUTS, PART INFINITY.

The latest NRA charmless offensive shows how bad the situation is. When the NRA found its normal post-massacre duck-and-cover routine -- basically waiting until our attention was drawn away from the latest multiple-casualty Second-Amendment demonstration -- had left it vulnerable to the protests of telegenic survivors, they immediately went on offense, with Wayne LaPierre babbling about socialists and Dana Loesch lying at top speed at the Parkland town hall. If you want to know why LaPierre and Loesch chose not to take a more reasonable and conciliatory approach with the kids in the wake of a mass gun murder, dismiss from your mind the absurd idea that it's the natural product of principled advocacy; ideas that are right don't need to be defended with bullying and bullshit. The NRA's PR makes clear that they are not peddling an Amendment or a specific interpretation thereof so much as the fear of violation and the thrill of violence.

That's why they came hard -- not because they're tough, and certainly not because they're right, but because they're full of shit. And they count on their belligerence to convince Americans they're fighting for them, rather than fighting to keep up the nice livelihood gun manufacturers have bestowed upon them, and against "socialists" and other ooga-booga rather than against the young citizens who have seen the effect of their depravity up close and want it stopped.

Too many liberals seem to think shame or conscience is going to stop these guys. No. They have to be repudiated decisively at the ballot box and throughout public life. If they aren't, things will only get worse.

Depressing, isn't it? Thank God we've got Rod Dreher for lulz! Right out of the gate God's Gastronome gives us a striking comparison:
I get as annoyed with right-wing Second Amendment absolutists who insist that any attempt to control guns will lead to a civil liberties apocalypse as I do with left-wing First Amendment absolutists who hold that any attempt to control access to pornography is welcoming Big Brother.
You'll get my porn when you pry it from my warm, sticky hands, Dreher! Porn, or what passes for porn at the BenOp compound, turns out to be much on Dreher's mind: After suggesting school shootings are caused by kids going to large schools -- as opposed to the one-room schoolhouse where Rod's ancestors l'arned to read and cipher -- he suggests a connection to stories in magazines like The Lily and Teen Vogue "pushing polyamory," ass-fucking, ice cream douches and vibrators -- "the most tender, intimate expressions of love between a man and a woman, reduced to bestial gestures," preaches Rod; "...It’s almost as if the dominant culture and its institutions are radically dehumanizing teenagers, and are mystified as to why some of those teenagers don’t see others as human beings worthy of respect and care." I wonder what's the mechanism of action for this -- do the antisocial young men who comprise the majority of mass murderers get corrupted by reading Teen Vogue and Vulture? Or do they somehow meet the sort of big-city gals who read these publications, perhaps at potential-mass-murderer mixers, and become intoxicated and corrupted by their intimate Ben & Jerry's scent?

As usual, the Dreher "reader" "letter" is the highlight:
UPDATE: Reader Matt in VA writes:
I am surprised that you don’t draw out the parallel between school shootings and another common theme on this blog — early-onset transgenderism.
The easy availability of machine guns can't be the problem; otherwise why would they be so much more scared by the monsters under their beds?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...since sometime this afternoon, but I didn't have time to announce -- some idiots wanted me to work! Me, work! Ah ha ha! --  so apologies. Anyway it's about Black Panther rightwing reax and o my brothers, it's a festival of lame and I do not mean lah-MAY.

Among the many outtakes, I had to drop the VDare entry because, shit, when so many mainstream conservatives are going I'M NOT RACIST BUT it seemed a little superfluous. But just in case you were wondering, VD's Paul Kersey guessed the film “will surpass $200 million, as black identity and Main Stream Media cheerleading are creating a formidable marketing combination” — you know how suggestible those people are.  But he found “disturbing” that “the film is telling blacks that the problems of Africans in the West and in Africa is simply the fault of white people,” and worried that “the hunger by blacks to be portrayed as ‘kings’ who can defeat the hated whites is driving much of the appeal of this film” would lure them into the embrace of villain Killmonger’s plan to use Wakanda's “advanced technology to arm black revolutionaries to wage a war on white people worldwide."  Then all ooga-booga would break loose!

The sad part is, you really don't have to go to the fever swamps for this kind of thing -- remember when Joe Klein predicted black people would riot when Do The Right Thing opened in 1989?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

HOLIDAY MONDAY 'ROUND THE HORN.

• The Village Voice column is delayed by the holiday til Tuesday. As part of my research I went to see Black Panther. I've told you good people before -- for example, back in 2009 when people were talking about The Dark Knight as a serious movie -- that I don't relate to the comic-book flicks that even some of my most intelligent friends enjoy. In fact, I find them idiotic. There may be a Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies, but as far as I'm concerned comic-book movies don't even have a Dances with Wolves. (Exceptions, or rather excuses: Ghost World, which I revere, is [clears throat] based on a graphic novel -- I know, that's like Lisa Loopner calling The Way We Were "a film not a movie" -- and Tim Burton's brutal Batman Returns is a Batman movie like Godard's Weekend is a road picture.) I can't even relate to those Lord of the Rings pictures. Magic kingdoms don't send me. My nerdness does not that way tend.

Black Panther is no exception. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it; in fact once I got used to the unfamiliar sensation of having my eyes and ears pummeled while prone in a multiplex barcalounger,  it was a treat. The Afrocentric threads and sets are supercool, I am definitely down with the Praetorian Guard of tough bald chicks (the baddest-assed of whom is a general), and I'm happy for anyone who gets an ethnocentric or any other kind of thrill from it.

But I couldn't take it any more more seriously than I did Kokumo and Pazuzu in Exorcist II: The Heretic. I've never seen a made-up ancient tradition that wasn't at least slightly ridiculous (including the "real" ones we all grew up with). When the Wakandans were shown cheering T'Challa at his coronation in mountain niches going up hundreds of feet, all I could think of were Hummel figurines in a specialty display, or It's a Small World at Disneyland.

Also, I have to say that while I see why T'Challa had to defeat Killmonger, the latter had a good enough argument; why shouldn't Wakanda help liberate black folk around the world? History certainly supports W'Kabi's prediction that, once Whiteyworld got a whiff of their secret Vibranium stash, they'd do as they have always done with Africans. The Wakandan isolationist ethos is about protecting Wakandans; I see nothing in it about the brotherhood of man. It's nice T'Challa and Shuri are sufficiently guilt-tripped by it all to go to Oakland and start starship midnight basketball, but if they'd decided to go the Black Planet route instead I think it would have been more interesting.

But like I said, it's a comic book movie, and it was enough that it moved and looked good. And if I'm sympathetic toward Killmonger it may be in part because Michael B. Jordan, in a cast full of winners, steals the plum. Admittedly he has the advantage of being able to speak modern argot in a movie full of pseudo-Royal-African, and everyone else's jokes are corny enough that lines like "'Hey, Auntie" bring the house down. But modern, too, is the monster of reaction to injustice that Jordan makes of Killmonger, and though his viciousness made me want him defeated, as it was meant to, when he said at the point of dying that he wished to be buried in the ocean like his ancestors who "knew death was better than bondage," I wept. That, I took seriously.

• Also, returning to the Oscar derby I started with The Post, Get Out, and Dunkirk, I saw Lady Bird. Story: Christine, who prefers to be called by the fanciful eponym because I guess it will make a good title someday, is a driven though perhaps not exceptionally bright girl attending a Catholic school her parents can barely afford who wants to get out of her third-tier city (the same one auteur Greta Gerwig grew up in, what a coincidence) and make it big in New York — come back, reader! I swear it’s not bad! Along the way she does a lot of growing up — Reader? Hello?

Ha okay, leave if you want, but first let me tell you why it’s worth a look: Lady Bird and the other characters reveal themselves quickly (wanting-more daughter, angry-loving mother, becalmed-depressed dad, et alia) and, I'm forced to say, none of them shows much in the way of hidden depths. Nor are they full of surprises  -- in fact the characters usually do things you should have seen coming a mile away. But I stayed interested and rooted for them throughout. I think that's because Gerwig and her actors understood that, first, when characters are closely observed, the audience will notice that, and think them worth watching. (Gerwig even has one of Lady Bird's teachers mention the similarity between love and attention. If that doesn't do it for you, the really-real performances of Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and Tracy Letts should.) Also, they knew that the characters don't have to surprise us to be worthy of our attention;  they just have to really try to be — what’s that phrase Mom uses? — the best version of themselves they can be. Sometimes just that struggle alone is worth watching.

I especially felt it in every scene involving Lady Bird and her best friend (Beanie Feldstein -- remember the name), a more obviously talented but also more ungainly girl whom she betrays, in a slightly ridiculous high-school way, before deciding to ditch her new cool friends and take her to the prom with her. I know, ick, after-school special, right? But when they went from crying in each other's arms to laughing with their mouths full of cheese and crackers because they couldn't believe they finished it all, I loved them. Later on, when they were mooning over what they would be doing next summer, they bored me. But I'll remember the cheese and crackers for a long time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

WATERING THE TREE OF LUNACY WITH THE BLOOD OF CHILDREN, PART INFINITY.

Another day, another bunch of dead kids, and Republicans reliably rush to aid and comfort the NRA. At National Review we have yet to hear Charles C.W. Cooke's traditional post-slaughter sermon about how you cahn't ban assault weapons, it's in the cawn-stuh-tyu-shun, but we have had proposed alternative solutions from other staffers such as David French:
Rather than tweet impotently, I’ve armed myself to protect my family and my neighbors; in my past role as a member of a school board, I’ve worked to better secure my kids’ school; and I’ve vowed that if — God forbid — I ever see evidence or warning signs of the darkness of a killer’s heart, I’ll have the courage to seek the intervention that can save lives.
That is to say: He bought more guns, and fantasized about what he'd do if he ever saw someone suspicious. That's usually the beginning of a success story, alright.

French's colleague Robert VerBruggen has a simpler solution: "Arm Teachers." I don't recall him suggesting that we arm preachers after the church shoot-em-up in Sutherland Springs last November, but maybe his condition has only recently advanced to this stage. VerBruggen elaborates:
[Training is] something a teacher could easily accomplish during summer vacation, even if schools insisted on rigorous training.
And why would they? Clearly any gun-wielding amateur marksman will be able to quickly take out a heavily armed mass murderer, and avoid shooting the wrong people or themselves in a panic -- they must be superhuman or else why would we pay them so generously?

If this sounds more like a recipe for Roddy McDowall in Class of 1984 than a sane society, remember that a sane society is the opposite of what they want: This is why they were so enraged to see New York City's crime drop after years of strict gun control, and why they're so eager to inject guns into polities that have benefited from their exclusion -- they want to make every part of America as hair-trigger gun-crazy as Fritters, Alabama, because that's how you breed Republicans.

UPDATE. Regarding French's I'll-know-one-when-I-see-one, Patrick Blanchfield makes a good point:


I wonder who David French and guys like him are likely to pre-cognize as a poison-hearted potential killer?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER.

Much has been made today of Megan McArdle’s promotion to the Washington Post. (I thought the Times was more likely to take her, but one “Liberal Media” outfit is just as good as another.) There have been some good new considerations of her nightmarish career, and renewed interest in old ones.

These get the broad outlines well enough — her libertarian lack of concern for people unlike herself (recently epitomized by her amazing column on the Grenfell Tower tragedy), her impressive imperviousness to alternate points of view — the elements, that is, that made her rise inevitable.  But these miss some of the shadings, the characteristics that make characters, as Forster had it, round rather than flat. That job needs more time to do properly than I have at present, but I can perhaps put a blush on the marble.

For one thing, McArdle likes to play the serious centrist, which position somehow always turns out to be right wing; for example, she has portrayed herself in the climate-change debate as a “lukewarmist,” that is, someone who believes climate science is “guesswork” and is darn sick of those slovenly radicals who practice it calling her a “denialist.” Being serious-centrist, she can admit, okay, there’s  “a small chance of climate catastrophe” — comparable to that of the earth being destroyed by an asteroid — and as a way of addressing it bids her followers read a nine-part essay by a guy who writes for Watts Up With That. There, now -- isn't that even-handed?

When climate scientists laughed her off for this, she declared them adherents to the “hypothesis” that “name calling will advance the cause,” rather than experts who found her self-satisfied ignorance ridiculous. (She really hates to be laughed at, which, given how frequently she has proven dunkworthy, may constitute the only genuine hardship she has ever experienced.)

McArdle is a great advocate of the Marriage Makes You Rich philosophy, which she has claimed liberals wouldn’t admit because they're jealous of the happily married. She has also said that people should get married as soon in life as possible — notwithstanding that McArdle married in her late 30s. No, she didn’t think she made a mistake -- come on, now! -- but —
Obviously, you can choose not to settle. I did. But I’ll be honest: that decision is a lot scarier at 33 than it would have been a decade earlier.
— there are rules for peons, and there are rules for McArdle.

Generally, on the subject of the poor and money, she is given to statements like, “it's all too common for well-meaning middle class people to think that if the poor just had the same stuff we do, they wouldn't be poor any more…” (Put it this way: were you to tell her the famous Hemingway-Fitzgerald story about the rich being very different from you and me, she wouldn’t get the joke.)

McArdle has supported this what's-money-got-to-do-with-poverty POV by telling readers about a girl she knew who, even though she “grew up in a middle class home which would happily have paid for college,” wound up “on the Section 8 waiting list,” which seemed to prove to her that helping is futile — “more money… would solve the sort of problems that stem from a simple lack of money. But it would not turn [the poor] into different people.” That's what the poor need -- not money, but personal transformation, like you get from a yoga weekend. If you disagreed with her and still wanted to shunt more of America’s resources to these waste-cases, well, you were just “imagining away their humanity, and replacing it with an automaton,” which is just like a liberal.

More than she likes anything — except, perhaps, her kitchen accessories, and power — McArdle hates liberals, particularly the unreasonable hippies who told her she was wrong about the Iraq War and were so smug about it and made her so mad that she quit the internet for a brief while.  Thus, in almost every argument she makes, you can see her trying to Own the Libs, as the kids say; even when it comes to rainbow-flavored positions that young and groovy conservatives are allowed to have, like gay marriage not being the end of the world, McArdle is compelled to portray them as a comeuppance to liberals: now that homosexuals were getting hitched, she said, “the forces of bourgeois repression have won”:
That's right, I said it: this is a landmark victory for the forces of staid, bourgeois sexual morality. Once gays can marry, they'll be expected to marry. And to buy sensible, boring cars that are good for car seats. 
That’ll show you liberal-tines! Then she went back into her Marriage Makes You Rich routine (“the disastrous collapse of marriage outside the elite”) and again pushed early marriage, graciously adding “I married at 37 myself, so I'm not judging, here. But if we want childbearing to take place inside marriage” blah blah blah.

Speaking of childbearing, which she has also not personally performed, she was annoyed that Democrats wanted to include contraceptive coverage in Obamacare, and explained her feeling thus: “according to the reasoning… I am being denied something every time my employer refuses to buy it for me: cars, homes, Hummel collectible figurines.” Things McArdle doesn’t need are by definition luxuries.

On race, she is capable of writing something like this
I really don't want this post to come out as "See--black people don't understand how hard white people have it!" Rather, I'm continuing what I tried to say in this post: that both communities, because they have a less than perfect understanding of the others' experience, are more suspicious of each other than they need to be.
And if you’re gasfaced over that, let us step back a few grafs:
I think it's safe to assume that minorities and women know more about life in the dominant group than the reverse--if for no other reason than the ways that media centers around their experience. But that can be tricky. Have you ever noticed how Europeans think they know way more about life in America than they actually do, because they watch our television and movies?
You’ve seen all the Vince Vaughn movies, my black friend, but you’ve never been to me!

But soft, the glow-worm shows the matin to be near; this should give you noobs some idea of what to expect. Look out below!

WINGNUT PRAVDA.

There have been plenty of rightwing tantrums lately over press coverage of the North Korean presence at the Olympics, but Ben Domenech’s takes the cake:
Dear America: Your News Media Absolutely Hates You
It’d be nice to say that American media doesn’t hate this country. It’d be nice to claim that the American press, while maintaining objectivity and balancing against bias, is still inherently American – that they are patriots who love this country even as they report on its defects... 
But we cannot say these things when the American media, time and again, illustrates its utter hatred for the nation and its people in those newspapers and on television. Having judged the American project kaput after the election of Donald Trump, they are now stooping to the level of defending the North Koreans – perhaps the most brutal and heinous regime in the world today – thanks to some side-eye from its minister of propaganda, the sister of Kim Jong Un. If the headlines are to be believed, “North Korea heading for diplomacy gold medal at Olympics” is the story American media want to tell about this moment.
The stories Domenech cites are ordinary reported pieces describing a diplomatic push by the North Koreans at the Olympics being held in South Korea. One such story from CNN quotes a "senior diplomatic source" disparaging Mike Pence's show of protest at the Olympic reviewing stand; this Domenech describes as "15 year veteran reporter at CNN, Will Ripley, just straight up delivering North Korean propaganda whole cloth to an American audience, simply because it criticizes the Trump administration."

Domenech doesn't say anything bad about the senior diplomatic source, perhaps because he's afraid it'll turn out to be John Kelly or some other rightwing made man, and he'd get in trouble.

I'm very old and can remember when we used to make fun of the Soviet media for reflexively slurring America as a hellhole and its allies as running dogs and lackeys. We had room to talk, of course, because we had a free press and, liberal or conservative, we were proud of that. Domenech has a different feeling about it, obviously, and would prefer to patriotize the press so that any description of activities involving countries hostile to the U.S., even innocuous soft diplomacy at the Olympics, be screened by the Committee for inappropriate tone and unflattering realities.

It’s long been clear that Trump’s ultimate goal is to delegitimize all press outlets not devoted to his praise, and painting them as unpatriotic for telling the truth is part of the strategy. Here’s hoping the clumsiness of operatives like Domenech, and the memory of the kind of country we used to be, will keep him from succeeding.

Monday, February 12, 2018

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...about the wife-beating charges at the White House and the awkward defenses offered -- in the abstract and the specific -- by our conservative brethren.

These things tend to run long so I had to cut a few bits -- like this interesting theory at The Future of Capitalism: after some bullshit about media "narratives," the unnamed author (the site is run by Ira Stoll so it may be him) says,
But there's a third possible narrative that the Porter story might fit into — one that I haven't yet seen written about. That is the story of a too-powerful and potentially abusive FBI at war with a White House that is trying to rein it in.
RECORDSCRATCH
...The Porter domestic violence history or allegations (he was never convicted or charged with any crime, so far as I can tell) surfaced as part of the extensive background investigation that the FBI conducts on anyone seeking classified clearance or a sensitive government job...
By this means the FBI gets "its own files of what the Russians call kompromat," FoC says, so maybe the feds leaked this particular story to the Daily Mail "as the bureau's way of pushing back against the release of the Nunes memo":
In essence, the FBI would have been sending the message to Trump, "okay, you want to air our dirty laundry in public, be careful, Mr. President, because we can play that game, too, and you will wind up getting burned."

It's just a theory. Maybe there's another explanation. But the timing is odd.
"The timing is odd"? This administration has a scandal every couple of days. If they're timing it, we ought to applaud whoever's serving as traffic director. With this bunch, isn't massive mendacity and incompetence the Occam's-Razor alternative?

Thursday, February 08, 2018

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.



It's nice to find a newish band you kinda like

•   Last week Megan McArdle shared with the world her 12-point secret to happiness which somehow did not contain "get paid a lot to write terrible shit." Most of it was about being nice to people -- not peons, just those near and dear, and perhaps donors -- and one item was "save 25 percent of your income," which led to her being smacked around by people who understood that saving 25 percent of one's income may be easy for her, but hard for low earners who did not, as McArdle did, come from moneyed professionals. This led to a McArdle Twitter tirade about how she had to eat ramen for a while and how the left was mean to her. Later she wrote about how rent control would be very bad for rents, as if rents could get any goddamn worse. All this reminded me, not only of how terrible McArdle is, but how fucked out conservatism is in general -- that is, that sliver of conservatism not devoted to Trumpian nationalism, the kind that six-figure columnists have to push. Increasingly our citizens are taking a second look at socialism, rent control, single payer etc. because uncontrolled Reagan-style capitalism has obviously fucked us over, and all its handmaidens like McArdle can do is groan NOOOOO DOOON'T IT WILL BE VENEZUELLLAAA with a flashlight under their chins and talk bootstrap penny-saved-is-a-penny-earned gush. What market is there for that, besides New York Times managing editors? At least the full-on Trumpkins offer the pleasure of unreasoning hate. Yet still they heap money on her and I'm wearing a cardboard belt! Sigh, I am too childish-foolish for this world.

•   Further proof that conservatism is fucked out: Not one but two idiotic National Review columns on how it's great to pray to Jesus for your football team to win. "Yes, God Cares about Football" by -- who else? -- David French is excruciating; French starts by basically admitting that there's no reason to talk about this -- there's been no recent backlash against God-bothering footballers for him to defend against ("Perhaps event militant atheists were grateful to see the Patriots lose") -- but he figures he'll go ahead and homilize anyway, and oh how I'd like to know what great preachers like John Donne would make of this:
Moreover, there’s something specific about football — distinct from other sports — that can concentrate a person’s faith. Yes, football is more religious in part because of its southern strongholds (the South is more religious). Yes, football is more religious in part because it’s disproportionately black (African Americans are more religious). But I’d also posit that something else is in play: keen awareness of human fragility...
So football is God's Favorite Sport, as opposed to basketball -- which, French has previously told us, is too "clustered in progressive urban centers" (pushes in nose, pushes out lower lip and tongue) for His taste. What could be worse? Well, French actually inspired colleague Nicholas Frankovich to chime in, and Frankovich manages to work in the paranoia French was too embarrassed to affect:
The question [Is it appropriate to pray for victory in sports?] embarrasses believers who are anxious to be taken seriously in public and goes to the heart of why they feel that anxiety to begin with. In theory, they still enjoy freedom of religion in the public square, but the social reality is that what they enjoy is the freedom to worship in private. Under the law, they are free to speak as if those parts of their religion that clash with materialism were true, but they risk some loss of social stature and credibility among peers when they exercise that right. Their problem in this regard is not legal or political. It’s social, cultural, and intellectual...
The "freedom to worship in private" bit is actually related to a fundamentalist trope about how Godless liberals are trying to trick believers into being grateful they can go to the church of their choice when real freedom means raving and snake-handling in public. Only, in this case, the allegedly proscribed conduct is praying for Jesus to cover the spread. Man, why do these Christians even stay in this country if they don't like it here?

• I don't commend our comments section enough, so I will do so now, with special attention to commenter keta's own version of McArdle's 12 Steps. Sample: "If you're going to praise someone, lay it on thick. Nobody ever died thinking, 'geez, I wish I hadn't been such an obnoxious phony suck-up without an ounce of integrity in my entire being.' Get that nose up in there." But really, they're all winners.

• Aha, this again: "San Francisco Bay Area Experiences Mass Exodus Of Residents," reports a local CBS News outlet. The proof points are a study from the kind of think tank that has David Brooks do their keynote address; some lady from San Jose who's moving to Tennessee to escape SJ's "sanctuary city status"; and "Operators of a San Jose U-Haul business" who "say one of their biggest problems is getting its rental moving vans back because so many are on a one-way ticket out of town." This of course is being repeated credulously by wingnuts ("IT’S OFFICIAL: There’s a mass exodus happening in San Francisco"). But I've seen this sort of "Har everyone's leaving the blue cities" yak before -- sometimes even with moving company stats!-- yet San Francisco is still growing, as are other big cities, because nobody wants to live out in Bumfuck if they can help it. Part of the Trump strategy is to make sure fewer Americans can help it, of course, and also to strip wealth from the cities and make them less attractive, because keeping people stuck out in the great land of meth and assault weapons helps turn them angry and crazy enough to vote Republican. But that could take years to move the needle if it happens at all. Meantime they can just go on telling themselves that cities are expensive and crowded because no one wants to live in them -- which contradicts their alleged economic beliefs but, as we just saw with the budget bill, they don't really believe that shit anyway.