Monday, July 24, 2017

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...about some alternatives wingnuts have from talking about Trump, such as Kid Rock's Senate run and that Muslim cop whose shooting of a white lady suddenly changed law 'n' order types into civil libertarians, if only for a news cycle.

Friday, July 21, 2017

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


Jim Fourniadis -- genius behind Rats of Unusual Size,
and producer of the first Reverb Motherfuckers album
(how's that for HOF credentials?) -- 
did this and I think it's great.

  I’ve only listened to a little Chapo Traphouse — podcasts still strike me as just a slower way of reading, and I don’t have the time. But I like Chapo Traphouse; they’re like Firesign Theater meets Negativland meets Alan Berg; I think it’s hilarious that, given their arcane references and not-terrible politics, they’re so popular. So it’s actually mystifying to me that the very smart Jeet Heer, among others, is giving them a hard time about being mean. I know his argument is technically more sweeping than “they’re mean” but isn’t that what it comes down to? Heer accuses them of “dominance politics” because of the bend-the-knee stuff, but how can he miss that the experience they provide is mainly aesthetic? Saying “Chapo is fighting a two-front war, one against the Republicans and another against moderate Democrats” is like saying “The Marx Brothers are fighting a two-front war, one against Sig Ruman as a stuffy opera impresario and another against Margaret Dumont.”

Jonathan Chait, of all people, is so close to getting this — “a podcast does not have to abide the logic of political coalition-building” — but then he starts talking about cross-checking your content for bias blah blah blah. Guys, this shit is funny, and humor (real humor that you can actually laugh at, not crude apparatchiks emulating the form) is not an insidious delivery system for propaganda, it’s a timeless source of human pleasure. He who feels it knows it. I hate to be dramatic (though I do have a BFA) but this is a step in the direction of treating everything as politics. Which, as this website daily shows, makes you ridiculous, and not in a laughing-with-you way.

  The insufferable Victor Davis Maximus Super Hanson, whose insufferability was revisited here only Wednesday, has a new offense at City Journal. In brief, it’s a yowl over how nobody (that is, nobody Hanson approves of) does physical labor anymore. VDMSH himself, a part-time gentleman farmer, reveals himself acquainted with toil, at least in an overseer capacity, which makes him superior to the sissies who push paper and then go to the gym.

As someone who waited tables for years before entering office life, I could say that I know something of what he’s talking about. It’s good to know worlds beyond the knowledge-worker one, especially now that so many middle-class kids are shunted into that world from the cradle. But Hanson gotta Hanson: eventually he is forced to admit (perhaps by an editor, though the article otherwise seems not to have been submitted to editorial attention) that people who have been made to labor for their wages would not miss the experience. That’s about when Hanson dodges to a new tack: “diminished cultural awareness about those who work physically” is the trouble with all those “privileged Yale students shouting down” their professors and other Hansonian bugbears. Blah. Here in northeast D.C., I have seen a lot of middle-class working-class people — cooks, day laborers, security guards — who hobble home from the bus. One might say they’re had too much of what Hanson counts a good thing. They might have had less, or more ease from the travails, were someone in authority and power paying more attention to them. But the Hansons of the world never agitate for them to have that kind of attention — they only want to turn the eyes of whippersnappers toward them to shame them, while feeling no shame themselves.

  Oh and: If you get tired of reading me on Rod Dreher, or even if not, why not give Andrew Johnston a try? Here he makes some good points, including this:
[Dreher's] is an extensive list of criticisms against this modern, nightmarish world of choice. That's the watchword, the real problem. Seven hundred years ago, there was no choice - you did as you were told or else you ended up flogged, exiled or broken on the wheel. Bit by bit, this changed as the Western world acquired the political and economic means to exercise choice as well as the knowledge to recognize that those choices existed… 
Dreher doesn't like the fact that people around him have the freedom not to believe in God, or to believe in a different god, or even to worship his God in a manner different from him. What he longs for in this book is enforced homogeny.
Dreher's a buffoon, but never forget that all his blubbering about homos forcing him to bake cakes is massive projection and the sheep's clothing on a threat. He and all the wormy theocons are just itching to get medieval on your ass.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

HERODOTARD, THE FATHER OF DERP.

I just caught up with that old drama queen Victor Davis Hanson, who is doing his usual long whine at National Review about how the Mexicans and the homosexuals and the SJWs and the Deep State are all conspiring to steal his chainsaw. It's all too tedious but I will share with you this lovely graf I pulled from his muck of wingnut buzzwords:
In short, will America remain a multiracial nation united in one culture in which superficial physical appearance becomes largely irrelevant (and indeed one’s racial DNA pedigree soon becomes almost undefinable), or will it go the tribal route that ultimately leads to something like the Balkans, Rwanda, Iraq — or Evergreen State, Ferguson, and Middlebury?
I can imagine his rageaholic readers gasping: Become another Middlebury, Vermont? Nature hikes in the winter, quarry swimming in the summer? Forbid it almighty God!

Oh, this part's pretty great too:
The Great Depression, and the establishment’s inept responses to it, left a quarter of the country unemployed for nearly a decade — hungry and desperate to expand government even if it entailed curtailing liberty in a way never envisioned by the Founders. The result was eventually the redefinition of freedom as the right of the individual to have his daily needs guaranteed by the state.
Hanson's apparent plan, now that the inept establishment has been replaced with Donald Trump, is to try it again, only this time we'll steel ourselves against statism, remembering that starving to death in a cold-water shack is as nothing compared to the nightmare of social security and banking regulations.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

HOUSEKEEPING AND A BIRTHDAY REQUEST.

1. Site problems reported:

I've been hearing from users that the site is inaccessible from outside the United States. Have you noticed? Do you have a workaround?

I've noticed myself that Disqus comments do not load reliably on the site. Have you noticed? Do you have a workaround?

Please respond in comments if you can see them.

2. Birthday:

Mine today, and thanks to those of you who've noticed. It has been suggested that I allow readers to PayPal me the price of a drink, or several drinks. I am usually reluctant to solicit funds outside of times of pressing need, as with the Edrosothon, in part because I've seen how numbnuts abuse the privilege. But after much contemplation I've decided, with this and much else, to go counterintuitive so: If you want to buy me a drink, or many drinks, I accept happily, and direct you to paypal.me/edroso2017 where you can drop me some coin. Thanks in advance and I promise I'll put it to good waste!

IT AIN'T BRAIN SURGERY.

At Reason, Peter Suderman says what killed repeal-and-whatever was the incompatibility of the "moderate" and "conservative" Republican viewpoints and the leadership's feckless disregard for the principles at stake:
The confusion over the single risk pool was the Republican confusion over health care in distilled form: Conservatives proposed an idea intended to loosen the grip of insurance regulations, but that might have ended up more expensive in the long run. Leadership used that idea, but modified it in a way intended to appease moderates. That modification would have made the provision work at cross-purposes to its original intent, or maybe not at all. It was a compromise that ended up providing nothing for anyone...

The disagreement over the single pools regulation may seem wonky or obscure, but it represents the whole of GOP disagreement over health care in miniature. Moderates want one thing; conservatives want another; leadership just wants to pass something and doesn't care much what it is—and the result is legislation that doesn't make any sense, as policy or as politics.
But this could describe any legislation, defeated or successful -- the reconciliation of opposing principles, under the guidance of leadership, to produce a bill.

What really doomed the bill was something Suderman won't mention: The seething anger the plan in all its forms provoked among the public. By the end it was on its way to single digit support -- with its supporters in all but the most benighted GOP districts shortly to follow. Obamacare is a Rube Goldberg machine for dispensing health care and everyone has good reason to hate it, but it doesn't necessarily follow that people would be happy to replace it with Pay or Die II; if your boiler goes out every morning, the way to better heat yourself and your family is not by setting the house on fire.

Also, unlike the saps who work at wingnut publications, Republican politicians know that they're not really beloved of the public -- they just vote for them because they hate Democrats, gays, women, Mooslims etc. For validating their contempt, they'll reward Republicans with office, and even applaud their stupid bathroom bills and whatnot. But they're not going to die for them, nor let unforeseeable illness send them to the poorhouse so Paul Ryan can fall to his knees in his St. Ayn chapel blubbering "We did it, Ms. Rand."

Trump's instinct to blame the Democrats, while nuts, is about the best strategy they've got now. You can see the brethren working on it already: At USA Today, Texas Public Policy Foundation analyst Chris Jacobs blames "Liberal Medicaid alarmism.... The liberals who claimed this year’s Republican health bills would 'cut' Medicaid" -- interesting choice of scare quote, that -- "are the same ones who endorsed Obamacare’s reductions in Medicare spending." Yeah, but 1.) The voters are still getting their Medicare benefits, so what do they care, 2.) they at least dimly intuit that the Medicare money went to another health care program, Obamacare, whereas anyone, even the dimmest gomer in Gomer Gulch, knows that whenever a Republican defunds a program, the money goes straight to Montgomery Burns and the guy in the top hat from the Monopoly game.

Jacobs ends by claiming the left "did the American people a disservice by detracting from the debate on health care that our country deserves." But there never was a debate; merely a round of Who Do You Trust. Voters may hate the Democrats for their association with people they've been trained to hate, but they don't think Democrats are going to kill them. About Republicans, really, what sentient American would say the same?

Monday, July 17, 2017

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN...

...on how and why conservatives rushed to defend David Brooks' sandwich-of-liberal-oppression column. I got into this topic a little earlier, here, but the column is a much fuller consideration of the phenomenon, and it has jokes, so enjoy. (I will say that I proposed the headline "David Brooks Shtick Sandwich: All The Consevatives Took A Bite," but my editor wouldn't go for it. Philistines!)

It worth remembering that, while David Brooks seems like a hapless dummy, his social views can be every bit as offensive as those of the snarliest Trumpkins; recall his complaint that police body cameras, revived in the wake of Ferguson, would "undermine communal bonds... When a police officer is wearing a camera, the contact between an officer and a civilian is less likely to be like intimate friendship and more likely to be oppositional and transactional." Unless, of course, your relationship is already oppositional -- but whyever should that be?

Among the outtakes: Professional This-Is-Why-Trump-Won-Sayer Chris Arnade applauding Brooks: “I would add, where David Brooks uses upscale delis, I use McDonald's to show the difference in cultural capital between front-row & back-row.” Arcade is apparently of the impression that liberals don’t go to McDonalds and, when they want to grab a quick bite downtown, use the Soros app to locate the best nose-to-tail restaurant in the vicinity.

Oh, if I had more space and time I might have tied this all to the many conservative columns about how liberal snootiness is Why Trump Won and Will Always Win -- like Bret Stephens' "politics of contempt" thing, for instance, where he actually accused Democrats of running "against Trump and an America that, like it or not, he represents." Talk about a can't-win situation! Conservatives, especially the Conservatives Formerly Known as NeverTrump, increasingly engage this tautology -- even when they claim, for whatever complicated psychological reasons, that they don't like Trump, they talk as if Trump is America now and therefore cannot be meaningfully opposed -- that is, opposed in order to beat him, as distinct from opposed in order to feel good for a while before capitulating completely like a Republican Senator (which they're all for!). I thought for a while this was their way of trying to demoralize Democrats, but I begin to think it's a way of explaining their own gutlessness to themselves.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

BREEDER MAILBAG.

It's hard to pick a favorite among the many obsessions of Rod Dreher. His flat-out support of tyrants so long as they're religious ("Putin, Our Tsar-Protector?") is pretty good; his terror of the trans menace (“an older transgender said to him, ‘You’re just a kid now, but when you turn 21, we’re going to take you out and get you broken in’”) is even better. But for my money, his tendency to sputter over porn is the richest vein. I thought he had spiked his meter for good some years back, when that "2 girls 1 cup" thing was happening -- anyone who'd been around the block even once knew it was just the Fetish of the Week, something to ├ępater the squares to be replaced with some other woo-woo the following month, but Dreher went so nuts over it that he appeared to be promoting it:
(I know that the way I'm writing about it will make lots of readers want to see the clip. I'm sorry about that, but there's really no other way to write about it. If you are bound and determined to let your curiosity win here, please at least go to the Wiki entry to understand what kind of images you are going to have burned into your brain forever if you watch the clip.) 
What kind of society do we have when that kind of information is easily available to people, especially to children? What kind of society can we hope to have?
Hur-ray, hurr-ay, hur-ray, only one tenth of a dollah! This week Dreher's on a real tear, fueled by his Reader Mailbag routine that's brought us so much pleasure in the past. In the first installment, one of several alleged correspondents says he grew up going to church but, stuck as he was in the "very liberal, atheist Pacific Northwest," what chance did he have to avoid mega-porno-sin:
I had my first encounter with Marijuana in a church parking lot. My friends from youth group turned me on to pornography at the age of 11 (perhaps one of the worst decisions I ever made, but more on that later). These same friends taught me how to swear, catcalled the girls in our youth group, and gave me a pretty good compilation of dirty jokes (I confess, I still enjoy the jokes)...
Haw haw, not much harm in dirty jokes -- they mostly just reenforce stereotypes, which is godly, rather than get you hard, which is not!
...I’m the oldest child in my family and have always had deeply conservative views on life (again, contradictory to my lifestyle).
Brother, if America only had a dime for every time it heard that one. Things got worse for our correspondent:
From about 16 through to November-December 2016 time frame, I lived a life of pretty pure hedonism. I struggled with romantic relationships (I’ve had one successful, long-term one, but even that was clouded by the girl’s inability to commit–I’m unfortunately still pretty madly in love with her).
Her inability to cum what? Eventually our hero got religion, but there's a stumbling block:
I easily gave up cocaine, nicotine, binge drinking, and casual sex. But I cannot give up pornography.
Maybe if he hung in with casual sex, he wouldn't need the porn. Well, to each his own. There are other witnesses:
I confessed my addi[c]tion over and over again in the confessional but still got no relief. Then God entered the picture again in the form of another book: Be A Man by Father Larry Richards. A sermon from Fr. Larry is like a punch in the mouth.
I have to say, nine times out of ten a punch in the mouth will stop you beating off. Next:
Porn made me impotent.
Nice lede! But...
I have been married nearly 25 years, and for most of the first 20 years ours was a “dead bedroom.” Despite the fact we managed to have some kids we would go months in between intimacy. On at least one occasion we went a full year. Many people would have left the relationship but I determined I was going to stay for the sake of my kids, and I wasn’t going to cheat because that could lead to all kinds of complications (like divorce and not being able to see my kids).
But porn – porn was available to satiate the sex drive.
...I'm not sure you thought out what was making you impotent. I thought Dreher would be spent for a while after that, but damned if he didn't come back today with more tales of porn horror:
Our daughter was asked by a boy to provide oral sex for him at recess… in first grade.
Another great lede! If these guys get tired of working for Letters to Rodhouse they can make some real money in the clickbait farms.
...The 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students at the local elementary school were using their school district-confirmed google accounts (for google drive to send homework back and forth) to sign up for youtube and some of them were posting videos of them dancing naked for all the world to see with their google/district email displayed. Most of the parents and school employees were totally unaware this was going on! The overwhelming majority of parents are clueless to what their little darlings are doing.
I'm still trying to figure out what actually happened here. Are these 8-to-10-year-olds actually taking videos of themselves nude and posting them on YouTube with their contact information? Has this correspondent alerted the parents, or the police? If not, what's stopping him? Is he afraid they'll take them down?

This other guy, I have to admit, paints a compelling picture of his youthful porn encounters back in the days of the horse and buggy:
Later, when we migrated to the burbs, a full blown Playboy was somehow acquired (God knows how). It was placed in the woods, under a giant pile of illegally dumped concrete. EVERYONE knew where it lived. By everyone, I mean every boy in a 2 mile radius. Occasionally, someone would say, lets go to the rock. Whence we sallied forth as a group to flip a few (maybe 9-10 total) pages of a dirty (I mean actually dirty) magazine. Then, almost in a daze, the magazine was placed back in the rock, and we left.
And today these men are in the Order of DeMolay and pillars of their community -- but share a terrifying secret! (I would so have preferred their version of I Know What You Did Last Summer to the one they actually made.)

I write this Thursday night; will Dreher be able to get it up again Friday? Come on, Brother Rod -- third time's the charm!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MR. BROOKS' CLASS WAR.

Old-fashioned straight-up racism is a tougher sell in the age of Black Lives Matter than it used to be, so racists (and the people hired to get votes from them) must modernize. Some conservatives (including the allegedly reformed Andrew Sullivan) remain quite comfortable saying or at least dogwhistling that black people are treated unequally in this society because they're Bell Curve inferiors. But even they must qualify it: Look, we're not racist because we admit Asians are smarter than us! Look, we're only defending Charles Murray's right to free speech!

There's always the "Liberals are The Real Racist" dodge. But that's usually an unsatisfying balm conservatives apply after they've been laughed off the stage. However, maybe they'll get more pro-active with it -- David Brooks is working in his sociological meth lab to strip the "white" out of "white privilege" and put "liberal" in instead.

How's he doing it? By taking out the actual political and philosophical parts of liberalism, and leaving only the stereotype of sissies who like fancy books, food, and leisure activities, think they're better than you, and have found a way to be rich without quite being capitalists (sneaky buggers!).

Brooks' column, generously titled "How We Are Ruining America" (it's the last acknowledgement of his own possible complicity, though), starts with a long wheeze about how "upper-middle-class" people are soaking up all the good things -- education for their kids, "behavior codes" (presumably like marriage, which makes you rich!), maternity leave, etc. While a socialist, or a Christian or a decent human being, might think, okay, then let's use government to give less upper-middle people better access to such things, Brooks explains that what's really causing these inequalities are "the informal social barriers that segregate the lower 80 percent."

This isn't about the black guy who can't get a cab -- why, the fact that he's presuming to hail one shows he's in the upper 20 percent, and thus just as much an oppressor as the whites. The real oppressors are the ones who can pronounce simple Italian words, or who don't freak out when they can't (a sure sign of effeteness):
Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree...
BULLSHIT BUZZER ALERT! Maybe she's his nanny.
...to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named "Padrino" and "Pomodoro" and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.
What sort of person is class-shamed by an Italian deli? Mmmmaybe the "friend" was Mexican; maybe she'd just come up from Gopher Holler, where they have a Chipotle but not a salumeria. Here's how Brooks explains it:
American upper-middle-class culture (where the opportunities are) is now laced with cultural signifiers that are completely illegible unless you happen to have grown up in this class. They play on the normal human fear of humiliation and exclusion. Their chief message is, “You are not welcome here.”
Those fucking Italians! Always trying to make you feel small because you don't know which gabagool to use for the fish course!

Even worse:
In her thorough book “The Sum of Small Things,” Elizabeth Currid-Halkett argues that the educated class establishes class barriers not through material consumption and wealth display but by establishing practices that can be accessed only by those who possess rarefied information.
That "rareified information" being the code to the security systems at their McMansions.
To feel at home in opportunity-rich areas, you’ve got to understand the right barre techniques, sport the right baby carrier, have the right podcast, food truck, tea, wine and Pilates tastes, not to mention possess the right attitudes about David Foster Wallace, child-rearing, gender norms and intersectionality.
I know what all this shit is; I must be rich. Rich and rareified! Yet I'm wearing a cardboard belt. Why don't I just leave this stupid job I'm stealing time from to write this, and live on information?
The educated class has built an ever more intricate net to cradle us in and ease everyone else out. It’s not really the prices that ensure 80 percent of your co-shoppers at Whole Foods are, comfortingly, also college grads; it’s the cultural codes.
I showed the cashiers that I know how to pronounce quinoa, but they still called security when I left without paying.
Status rules are partly about collusion, about attracting educated people to your circle, tightening the bonds between you and erecting shields against everybody else. We in the educated class have created barriers to mobility that are more devastating for being invisible. The rest of America can’t name them, can’t understand them. They just know they’re there.
If you're still wondering why Brooks downplays the role of money as well as the role of race here, I'll spell it out: His target is not people of color, who don't need David Brooks to tell them what time it is, but 1.) the Trump voters out in the heartland who might resent that they can't afford a block of Pilates classes (but let's face it, they don't read David Brooks nor even know who he is, and would take him for one o' them liberal sissies if they ever saw him); and, more likely, 2.) rightwing operatives who have been peddling arugula-Grey Poupon visions of liberalism forever, and hope that the recent uptick in class consciousness can be exploited against liberals rather than against their coprorate masters -- perhaps with "I am the 80%" t-shirts, and symbolic anti-elitist state-lege bills taxing reiki or requiring yoga studios sell cigarettes, and rhymes like "If you're lib, I like the cut of your gib, if you're centrist, you get a good dentist, but if you're Right, brother, good night, good night."

As America goes further down the crapper, a lot of people are going to get mad at the rich, and the donors might find it worth their while to fund propaganda that says "Don't guillotine you, don't guillotine me, guillotine that liberal hugging that tree." Maybe they'll outfit their Porsches to roll coal so the rabble know they're alright. Since saner policies are out of the question, it's worth a try.

UPDATE. Holy shit, every wingnut in wingnuttia rushed to defend Brooks' imbecilic column. Here's the crest of Megan McArdle's tweetstream:


I mean, all those liberals have to have the same exalted social status as she, haven't they? Otherwise why would Twitter allow them to talk to her? And she knows lots of genuine working class people, like that lady who said such nice things to her on the bus -- although, hmm, that lady was black, so maybe she was on welfare.

Chris Arnade comes in with his usual bullshit -- "I would add, where David Brooks uses upscale delis, I use McDonald's to show the difference in cultural capital between front-row & back-row" -- just in case Brooks is thinking of jumping line, Chris Arnade has McDonald's, bitch (and possibly a licensing deal -- "ba ba ba ba ba, white working class!"). On and on he goes about how oh, you liberals all sneer at McDonald's! Like we're all 23, have trust funds, and dine at Le Diplomate every night -- or that the amount of crap food one has eaten (and I've eaten plenty in my time) is the measure of one's authentic something-or-otherness, instead of a marker for pre-diabetes.

This may be Arnade's nadir: "The online reaction to David Brooks column is largely this -- Snark from people who have cultural capital but not economic."  As if we could ruin people's hopes and dreams by making snide remarks from our studio apartments and crappy jobs! Again, we see the insistence that money has nothing to do with it, and therefore money can't help. It's a great excuse for not supporting government interventions -- because the real power is in positive thinking, and if we just reward that and punish "snark," then by the law of supply and demand we'll Make America Great Again.

This brings us back around to Murray who, looking to diversify from his Bell Curve shtick a few years back, promoted that Fishtown/Belmont "bubble test" hooey, purporting to show that if you didn't watch the right TV shows and listen to modern crap country music (not that rap stuff, though -- only you-know-whats listen to that), you were an elitist and therefore had nothing to say to the Little People. This led to the spectacle of pencil-necked wingnuts imagining themselves butch because they knew the names of some pickup trucks. And now we have the logical end result of this ridiculous obsession, Donald Trump -- on the one hand, the People's Choice, whom no one would call elitist; on the other hand, a golden-palace-dwelling narcissist, the ultimate Bubble Boy. It is amazing what lengths we'll go to as a country to evade paying the butcher's bill -- but I have a hunch the butcher will get real insistent real soon.