Wednesday, February 10, 2016

THE GOP DELUSION.

Donald "Big Pussy" Trump won by a landslide in New Hampshire and sensible people aren't the only ones disconfited --  long-term wingnut-welfare recipients are as well, but for different reasons (briefly: Trump jumped the line, cannot be relied on to destroy Social Security and Medicare, and by fear-mongering straight-up without recourse to traditional dog whistles has shattered the notion that Republican positions on minorities and immigrants have any more courtly or civilized basis than an appeal to naked animal hatred).

They express this discomfiture in a number of ways. First and foremost: Denial. "Marco's Moment Is Now," insists Michael Graham of The Weekly Standard. "No, not Saturday night’s debate: This is Marco's moment." (I am put in mind of  Max Bialystock getting Lorenzo St. DuBois to audition for Springtime for Hitler: "Wait, wait, this is Boomerang! This is Boomerang!")
Getting knocked-down in New Hampshire does not have to be the end of Rubio's run for the GOP nomination. It could be the real beginning. It's all up to the junior senator from Florida.
Graham may just be covering for his boss, who bet long on the thirsty childman. At National Review, Eliana Johnson speaks of "Marco Rubio’s New Challenges" rather than Marco Rubio's Collapse. There are other candidates for anti-Trump savior: At National Review, Jeremy Carl calls NH "Armageddon for the Establishment," because of Trump and the "less obvious" winner... third-place finisher Ted Cruz -- whom I guess you could say the Republican "establishment" doesn't like, if only because no one likes Ted Cruz. "Ted Cruz Might Be The Real Winner In New Hampshire" says Matt K. Lewis. "...The primaries are about to head South, which is Cruz country." Wow, a Republican who can carry the South! Now all he has to do is get people in the rest of the country to embrace Opus Dei crackpots.

For laughs there's "Jeb Bush Gains Some Steam After New Hampshire" (WSJ) and, my favorite, "Why Can't Kasich Win?" by Jay Cost ("Isn't the Kasich case at least as persuasive [as] the Bush case?" Now that I can believe!).

I don't like Trump either, and I am convinced someone other than he will be nominated. But with me, one has nothing to do with the other -- America has disappointed me many times and I'm sure will disappoint me again, so I don't think we're too good for nominee (or, God forbid, President) Trump -- I just think Trump will fall because the GOP has too much invested in getting one of their made men on the ticket, and they control the means of production. These conservative columnists, on the other hand, are writing rotisserie league campaign speeches; they write as if they believe their columns and blog posts, despite being read entirely by people who already agree with them, can actually affect the race. That's what makes them pathetic: They're putting on brave faces for a mirror.

UPDATE. Comments are (as is traditional here at alicublog) glorious, and I have to call attention to a burst of song from Ellis Weiner:

You’re standing onstage one night
While running for POTUS
Debating your foes because
It’s part of the gig.
Then Monday they take a vote
You’re handed your hat and coat
But this could be the start of something big.

It goes on below the fold.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

HEAH COME DA JUDGE.

It may seem as if I'm picking on Mark Judge of culture-war catastrophe Acculturated, but look, it's a busy day and sometimes you just have to take the easy lay-up. His latest is about how men should be able to go out with other men -- no, he doesn't mean anything gay, though it does get physical -- when Judge hangs with his old school buds "it’s noticeable how physical our friendships still are, even decades after we graduated. At reunions we tend to fall back on the age-old male expression of affection—light punches on the shoulder, a bear hug, even playful wrestling after a few beers." (I would pay good money to see Judge's remake of Cassavetes' Husbands.)

Judge's plea is actually for Boy's Night Out, which leads me to ask: so who's stopping you? Like all culture-warriors, he thinks behaviors of which he disapproves reflect political ideologies:
Both feminists who hector men to spend every moment with them—making sure all activities are of equal time—and conservatives who argue that a man’s entire life should revolve around his family, are both presenting ideas that are harmful to men.
Hectoring men to spend every moment with you -- isn't that from Our Bodies, Ourselves (That Includes You, Larry)? And even the comedy strawmen that pass for conservatives here at alicublog don't think "a man’s entire life should revolve around his family" -- how then, for example, would married preachers ever get away to Bible conferences for anonymous sex with men?

Here are my two favorite parts of the thing, devoid of context because who gives a fuck:
Feminists of course will take this (like everything else) the wrong way—I’m mansplaining why women don’t feel stress, etc.—but it’s actually a compliment.
And:
The decision was instant and near unanimous: No. All it took to make the right call was a reminder of last year’s monkeyshines: the drinking, pick-up games, late night skinny dipping in the ocean, frank talk about women and sex. We needed to pick the insects and fleas off of each other, and that was best done without girls.
Readers Who Liked This also enjoyed "Why the ‘Conan the Barbarian’ Sequel Should Focus on Fatherhood," which amazingly exists but was written by somebody else.

Monday, February 08, 2016

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...about Rubio's poor debate performance and the rightbloggers' rush to defend him. Not every one of the brethren is on board --  immigration hawks like Mark Krikorian, who calls him a "Merkel Republican," will never forgive him for the Gang of Eight thing -- but Rubio's PR crisis stirred a lot of them to embarrassingly transparent damage control.

This mildly surprised me; I had been thinking Cruz was their preference and that what was bad for Rubio, being good for Cruz, would to them be good in all. But then it hit me: when you remove the novelty candidates Fiorina and Carson (and I suspect they'll remove themselves sooner than later), you see the remaining GOP field is mostly not comprised of true believer conservatives, but of what pass for moderates in that party nowadays -- that is, Kasich, Christie, Bush, and Trump, who are all horrible monsters in their own ways, but not movement zombies mesmerized by rightwing paternosters as Cruz is -- and as Rubio is, too, when you look at what he actually believes.

So the hardcore types might be feeling a bit challenged. And, as I say in the column (which you should read!): Cruz may be everything conservatives want, but they know that he's creepy. This doesn't matter to them; it may even be part of what they love about Cruz; that damp, lizard-eyed devotion might say to them, "he will protect me from the gummint revenooers and blue helments when the End Times come, even if it means blowing up the world and sending us all to Jesus." But conservatives also have some dim awareness that not every American shares their particular kinks, and where they see a new Reagan others may see Grandpa Munster. So, they figure, cherubic Rubio might serve to lure the unbelievers unto the cause, like the cute kids in My Little Golden Book of Zogg.

They may not be wrong. After all, the liberal media seem to love Rubio too ("Marco Rubio Comes Back Swinging After Difficult Debate" -- New York Times). He's the people's choice!

Anyway, have a look and see what you think.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

"DIVIDE" AND BONKERS.

The other day Obama went to a mosque and made a nice speech, to which Marco Rubio reacted with non-sequiturs:
“Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque,” Rubio continued. “Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves.” 
“But again, it’s this constant pitting people against each other -- that I can’t stand that. It’s hurting our country badly," Rubio said. "We can disagree on things, right? I’m a Dolphin fan, you’re a Patriot fan."
Rubio is clearly animated by a desire for Muslim-hater votes, and has no need nor perhaps the ability to explain, so it's left for intellectuals like David Harsanyi to tell us why being nice to Americans of all faiths is divisive:
Take this CNN headline: “Obama rebuts anti-Muslim rhetoric in first U.S. mosque visit.” What does it mean? In the piece, we learn that president reacted to “young Muslim parents whose children are worried about being removed from the country.” I know of no Republican candidate — or anyone of note on the Right; or anywhere else for that matter — who has ever suggested any policy resembling this. Not even Donald Trump. 
A president who wanted to bring people together would have dismissed this as a preposterous idea.
A president who wanted to bring people together would look at what Republicans like Trump have actually been saying -- that we need to keep Muslims out of the country because they are special contaminant -- and try to head off the next logical stage of this kind of racism, which our Muslim citizens, who are no dummies, are already worried about. That's why he went to the mosque: To let these Americans know that we are not yet that depraved, and let all Americans know that we need not become that depraved.

One more bit from Harsanyi:
Yesterday, Obama spoke about the evils of Islamophobia to a group that featured women covered, subordinated, and segregated from men. I’m happy he’s open-minded about that sort of thing.
Ha ha.

Well, at least they're not throwing bottles at them anymore. 

I could go on all day like this -- Harsanyi also asks why it's okay for Muslim ladies to be covered but Bob Jones no longer gets tax breaks, for example -- but there's no point: like all his sort, Harsanyi's just vamping with this shit, hoping some Muslim will blow something up between now and Election Day so he can rattle the bins for the GOP's Crusader constituency. There's something else the guys at the mosque have that I can relate to: A constant awareness that your future could be total fucked at any moment by ruthless madmen. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

RAND GOES DOWN BUT THE "LIBERTARIAN MOMENT" STRETCHES ON.

Rand Paul's out of the GOP race, and a bunch of people right and left are saying, hey, whatever happened to that "Libertarian Moment" thing that The New York Times magazine, Time, and others thought Paul represented, anyway?  I always knew that was bullshit, and thought Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, and the conservative "war on cops" freakout exposed that sham pretty decisively last year. But apparently not, if people are still yakking about it.

So, again: Most of the people you hear talking about the rise of libertarianism are traditional conservatives trying to get over with a new shtick. They're more interested in restoring the Constitutional right of rich people to take over public resources and make private profit from them, and in otherwise ceding the rich greater rights than the poor, than they are in your window-box of weed or, heaven forfend, your so-called right to abortion -- among libertarian deal-breakers, raw milk beats reproductive rights every time.  Check out Mark Ames' nice preemptive post-mortem on Paul at Pando from October, and scroll down to the 1999 speech Rand's daddy, Ron Paul, made in defense of Microsoft versus the regulators who were sizing up Bill Gates' monopoly practices ("This is a good time for Congress to reassess the antitrust laws"). Hell, check out the Koch brothers. Money talks and hackey-sack walks.

Also check out Veronique de Rugy at National Review, responding to her colleague Ramesh Ponnuru's dismissive take on the LibMo. de Rugy does the routine about how libertarianism is more cultural than political -- a favorite of folks who want obscure the essential conservatism of what passes for libertarian politics -- and then adds:
...I don’t care particularly about getting libertarian candidates elected. I do, however, care about Americans with libertarian instincts electing more pro-freedom and pro-market lawmakers like Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul or Representatives Thomas Massie and Justin Amash. They may not consistently call themselves libertarians but they are clearly putting pressure on their Republican colleagues and pushing them to be more pro-freedom, to adopt more free-market policies, and to be embarrassed by their overspending and big-government tendencies.
These three guys are best known for hollering about Obama tyranny every chance they get, and Amash recently distinguished himself by voting against federal water aid to Flint on the grounds that "the U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to intervene in an intrastate matter like this one" -- though maybe he was just trying to get dehydrated citizens to explore raw milk. Plus he's really into the flat tax. Feel the freedom!

As for Rand Paul himself, he has his good points and his bad points; he's your basic ambitious Republican Senator, which is to say a potentially catastrophic grifter, and when he returns to the national stage in another political season who knows how much libertarianism he'll flash. Maybe he'll call for war against Iran, and be hailed for the bold political jiu-jitsu -- then, back to war with the EPA!

UPDATE. Though I had nowhere to put it in the main post, I'm re-upping this old thing about another popular favorite among conservatarians: Approving social safety nets only so long as they serve as corporations' no-cost health care plan. I mean, you can't have a post like this without some Megan McArdle.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

A GLOWING RECOMMENDATION.

I don't have a lot of spare time and hadn't planned on reading Jane Mayer's Dark Money, which apparently treats the Koch Brothers, but as is often the case one review can make a difference:
Those who hate too much become like the people they hate, and so it is with Jane Mayer, whose Dark Money, a 450-page screed of unrelenting venom, portrays a vast right-wing conspiracy controlled by a small number of libertarian donors. Like the John Birch Society of days gone by, Mayer sees a cabal of dark forces that secretly dominates American politics. And like Joe McCarthy, people two or three degrees of separation from her villains are tarred with their brush. Fifty years ago Richard Hofstadter said that the Birchers and McCarthyites exemplified the “paranoid style” of American politics, but now it’s the Mayers who have debased American politics.
There's an inside joke embedded in this skein of spit: the Kochs' old man was actually a Bircher himself. Other than that, it's all rant. The reviewer, George Mason professor F.H. Buckley, tells us that Mayer's book "is politics at the level of Keith Olbermann, a long, unremitting, hate-filled sneer," and Mayer "is evidently a person whose mind has never risen above the arrogance and hatred peddled on the thoroughfares," a "monomaniacal bore," etc. The closest he comes to telling us how she might be wrong, though, is this:
Mayer’s world is one of dark forces and private venality, but what she doesn’t get is just how one seeks donor support. No one ever received a dime by saying they’d do the donor’s bidding. Instead, one tells the donors what one wants to do, and either gets or doesn’t get supported.
I wonder if Buckley's ever heard the one about the blind horse, the nod, and the wink. The best part, though, is this:
In reading her diatribe, I was amused to realize that I would have been dead-center in her sights, had I been important enough to be noticed.
Better luck next time, F. A few days ago the New York Times reported on some risibly faked plagiarism charges against Mayer. It looks as if Buckley's not the only one who doesn't want people to read her work, which suggests that it's very much worth reading.

I wonder if these guys know how obvious they are? Or are they just convinced that there's no point even trying to make it look legit?

UPDATE. In comments, mds: "I mean, sweet, tender Baby Jeebus on toast, they couldn't get some crank at Harvard or Chicago? They actually went with a guy at a university the Kochs have given tens of millions of dollars to?... We're talking Oscar the Grouch being outraged at accusations that the hand up his ass belongs to Caroll Spinney."

Monday, February 01, 2016

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...about rightbloggers and the Iowa caucuses. This was interesting to write because, as I sort of mention in the column, while political reporters are by and large just hoping to get reads and keep their jobs, rightbloggers are more hubristic: they really seem to believe they can make a difference in national events by the perfection of their logic, the shrillness of their vituperation, or the capitalization of random words. Look at Erick Erickson, who demands purges at the drop of a hat, and all the political illiterates who talk electoral strategy from their Barcaloungers and make Mark Penn look like Clausewitz. In a way it's touching, and in the last ditch I guess I prefer them to working propagandists like George Will and Peggy Noonan, who may know a little more than the bloggers but use that knowledge to perpetuate ignorance because it pays. But then, some of our worst columnists used to be bloggers (latest installment: If I define "decadence" low enough, maybe someone else will help me obsess over it)...

Ah, screw 'em all. Anyway, here's my version of horse-race journalism, and I didn't have to stay at a Motel 6 in Keokuk to write it. My editor took out my joke about Ted Cruz' bad breath -- in fairness, I've probably cost them a fortune in lawsuits already -- but there are still few good ones left.

UPDATE. Just days after their big anti-Trump issue, National Review's Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponurru are already trying to adjust to life in the joint:
Through the Goldwater revolution, the party became newly oriented around limited-government conservatism, and eventually a better politician than Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, came along to represent the new dispensation and get elected president.  
Maybe Trump could serve roughly the same function. 
Sorry, laughed so hard I sprained something.
He could lose badly this year and yet give rise to a future GOP that takes enforcement of the immigration laws seriously, reduces low-skilled immigration, and does more to represent the less-schooled wage earner, while also rejecting fantasies of mass deportation.
I see a conference room session, like the old Erhard Seminars Training except everyone wears Trump clothing and thinks he's in charge and must assert his authority at all times or be crushed. The participants are all hoarse from screaming at each other. The sign outside the locked room reads REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION 2022.
Those gains would, however, come at a fearful cost that conservatives should strive to avoid.
Pssssh. Like they wouldn't take it if it meant more elbow room at the Big Trough.

UPDATE. Looks like Cruz came in first, and National Review is partying like it's November 8; on Twitter Lowry is thanking Mark Levin, Erick Erickson, and (get this) Glenn Beck, and declaring, "My tally of top four finishers in Iowa: Conservatism 60%, Trumpism 24%." If it had been Conservatism 57%, Trumpism 27%, of course, they'd all be hiding under desks while Il Douche goose-stepped up and down Main Street. I think Trump has a few kicks left in him, but as I said last month, he was never going to be the nominee; he is what he has always been, a symptom. When he goes dormant, the sickness will pop out somewhere else.

I'm not going to stay up to see if Bernie Sanders will pull it off; the arc of history bends toward justice, but it's long.