Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jane Addams: Land of Contrasts




Before blowing off his New York Times gig once and for all, piling into the RV with his former-mistress-and-soon-to-be new wife and hitting the road to tour American lecturing the hoi polloi  on the importance of humility and civility, Mr. David Brooks has a few loose ends to tidy up.

First, of course, he need to find a good home for Moral Hazard, the Irish setter Mr. Brooks' owns for photo-op purposes (h/t Charlie Pierce.)  There are many candidates for the honor, but Vegas odds makers currently give Mr. Bret Stephens the inside track.  Mr. Stephens appears to have the right Brooksian mixture of horror at the existence of President Stupid and sanguinity about the grotesque Conservative ideology that led directly to President Stupid that will keep New York's most influential plutocrat shut-ins happy in their dotage.

Second, he needs to he need to find a good home for Mark Shields, the superannuated garrulous Irish "liberal" from 1966 that PBS keeps on hand to make Mr. Brooks' appear reasonable and to make sure no one asks Mr. Brooks about his habit of being completely wrong about everything

And third, he needs to finally turn in that god damn book report on Jane Addams that's been hanging over his head since the 7th grade!  You know, there always seemed like there'd be plenty of time to get around to it but now, on the brink of what might be his greatest adventure in hectoring the poors about their moral failings, it's really time to get that shit nailed down.  After all, if he retroactively flunks the 7th grade, that might retroactively get his application to the University of Chicago rejected, which means that they might retroactively rescind his bachelors degree in history.   And without that bachelors degree in history from 1983 to qualify him as America's Most Ubiquitous and Respected Conservative Public Intellectual...well the consequences of that are simply to terrifying to think about.

For want of a nail the kingdom was lost and so forth.

And so, with all deliberate speed, America's Most Ubiquitous and Respected Conservative Public Intellectual has once again used his column in the New York times to circumnavigate completely around the grim, mind-blowing cliusterfuckery of President Stupid and instead check another item off of his personal to-do list.

Can you figure out which one?  (Hint:  If you guessed, "Jane Addams:  Land of Contrasts -- by Davey Brooks, age 13" get yourself a beer!  And as long as you're up, get one for me!)
The Jane Addams Model

These days everything puts me in mind of Jane Addams. Many of the social problems we face today...
Yes!  Yes!  The social problems.  In these modern times.  And so forth.
Addams was born to an affluent family in Cedarville, Ill., in 1860...
Cedarville!  Really?  You are fucking kidding me.  Wow!  Tell me more!
In her teenage years, she earnestly set to reading — “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Plutarch’s “Lives,” “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” — but in her twenties she was one of those young people who don’t get to themselves quickly. They spend years in study and in acquiring degrees with a vague sense they are preparing for something...
For a 7th grade book report, you are killin' Mr. Brooks!
Addams took a Grand Tour of Europe and found herself in a vegetable market...
Europe you say?  Really?  The one in Europe?
In London, she visited a place called Toynbee Hall, a settlement house where rich university men organized social gatherings with the poor in the same way they would organize them with one another... 
As today, it was a time when the social fabric was being torn by technological change...
They had technology too? Fuck!  They were so much like us in so many ways!  I gotta hear more more about this old timey technology and shit!
For example, Addams thought it was especially important to put immigrant adults into the role of teachers, because it affords “a pleasant change from the tutelage in which all Americans, including their own children, are so apt to hold them.”
...
Please remember to cite your sources, Mr. Brooks.  We've talked about this.  In high school your teachers are not going to be nearly as forgiving with your sloppiness as I am.  
Our antipoverty efforts tend to be systematized and bureaucratized, but Hull House was intensely personalistic...
You're right.  Things suck now.  They suck azz!  So when are you going to get back to the old timey technology?  I'm dying to know how the olds could tell time without FitBits and Samsung.  
Addams had amazing capacity to work from the specific case to the general philosophy...
Listen up kids, because I want to to say one word to you -- just one word -- about how to pad out a shitty book report to the minimum required length.  

Are you listening?  

"Adjectives".

Onward!
In her day, like our own, public life was dominated by manly men ...
I have no idea what the fuck this even means, but I'm getting the impression that we're actually not going to hear about the marvels and menace of turn-of-the-century technology.  Which is a pity, because anything along those lines written by any half-awake 7th grader would be infinitely superior to this demonstration of the absurdity of the NYT's "Fuck you, I can turn in literally anything and get away with it" op-ed policy.  
Addams was certainly political, but she defended the primacy of the “woman’s” sphere...
Yes, Jane Addams truly was...

...a Land of Contrasts!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sunday Morning Party Line


"How Evil Beats Craven All Day Long" Edition

In today's edition of my long-running (longest-running?) series on the Sunday Gasbag Cavalcade we dial in real close to a single interaction on the teevee machine to understand why everything is fucked up and shit.

Ready?

STEPHANOPOULOS:  ... So, Matthew Dowd, we just heard Bill Cunningham's take. Your take on the first 100 days?

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I look at it this way. In taking a look at this poll, I would describe it as good news, bad news, really bad news for President Trump in this. And the good news is, as we've talked about, he's got a solid level of support. It doesn't surprise me. There's a thing sociologists called anchoring, and voters anchor. And Donald Trump does have an emotional connection, and you can't break an emotional connection with a rational argument. You just can't. And I remember Richard Nixon kept a majority of his vote up all the way up until the day he resigned.

The bad news is a majority of the country doesn't think he's honest and trustworthy, and still questions his temperament.

The really bad news is, and this is a little fact that I looked up this morning, is no president has ever finished his first term going into a re-election with a higher approval rating than he had at his 100 days. That is problematic (INAUDIBLE)...
And here is the second half:
NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You guys all collectively lived through Trump knocking off the Republicans, Trump knocking off Hillary, being wrong about all of it at every stage. And you turn around and play the same old conventional wisdom. Donald Trump is the most divisive president since Abraham Lincoln. He represents an alternative world so while you have riots at places like Berkeley, he -- you have two parallel universes here. There's actually a very funny Megyn Kelly interview I did two weeks before the election, she's giving me all this polling data. And I said, look, there are two universes.

Now if your universe is right, Hillary Clinton's president. If our universe is right, Donald Trump is president.
We shall, for the moment, skip past much larger, ethical questions raised by American news corporations continuing to put a disgraced, adulterous fraud like Newton Leroy Gingrich on the teevee machine and instead focus on why Gingrich has already won this exchange.

See, being a ride-or-die  Both Siderist, Mr. Dowd is stuck trying to linguistically sidle up to and describe the effects of a phenomenon (Republican base voters remain dog-loyal to President Stupid) while never daring to explain the cause of that phenomenon (20 years of Fox News and Hate Radio have turned Republican base voters into a mob of brainwashed meat-puppets.)

His Prime Directive will not permit him to speak the truth, so the closest he can come is by blabbing about poll numbers and talking about "anchoring" and "emotional connection", which are things that "voters" do.

Gingrich, on the other hand, is the man most responsible for turning "1984" into the all-purpose Republican political and media playbook.



Gingrich knows that the Republican base are reprogrammable Orwellian meat-puppets because he built 'em that way, which is why he completely comfortable with taking the moral bankruptcy and cowardice at the heart of Dowd's "Never Judge Anything" Both Siderism and driving it straight to it's logical, Orwellian conclusion.
He represents an alternative world so while you have riots at places like Berkeley, he -- you have two parallel universes here. ... And I said, look, there are two universes. 
Now if your universe is right, Hillary Clinton's president. If our universe is right, Donald Trump is president...
Because he is completely unburdened by any vestige  of conscience, Gingrich never worries about the moral, political or environmental consequences of anything he says or does. With him it is always 100% pure, will-to-power totalitarian scheming, in which the sustained, collective, weaponized racism, paranoia and ignorance of the party base is sufficient to create any Reality the leaders of the party choose.

Which is what makes him a perfect commissar for President Stupid:

We Control Matter Because We Control The Mind

"Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation -- anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those 19th century ideas about the laws of Nature.  We make the laws of Nature."

-- George Orwell, 1984
Of course one might be tempted to ask, well, since Obama was elected twice, doesn't that mean that our universe was "right" for eight years?  And if that's true, how come thugs like Gingrich worked tirelessly for eight years to sabotage, slander and destroy anything and everything the Obama Administration tried to do?

But one should not give in to that temptation.  Not because it is wrong, but because it is useless. Because just as the Right simply wiped the entire Bush Administration and their complicity in its myriad, clusterfuck disasters from history the minute it was over, so too have they already shoved all of their well-documented madness and sedition during the Obama years right down the fucking memory hole.

Because, as Orwell wrote 68 years ago:
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
And although God knows I'm no Orwell, here is what I wrote almost exactly a decade ago today. 

From me, April 27, 2007:

Is it Meme-nto?


That inability to form any new political memories after 1997?

Or is it something darker?

I was at play in the offerings of the Mouse Circus this Sunday, as is my habit, and there was something just plain “off” and deeply weariness-inducing about the whole morning, which is why I opted not to write about it.

Throughout the intertoobs people were a-giggle at the fact that Wan Williams (h/t watertiger) actually stood up on his hind legs and yipped a little truth at his masters. And on the flip side of the coin, there was a background whirr of outrage at the way Newt Gingrich was handled on “This Week…”

Here is the snip:
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the broader context? After Columbine, you gave a speech where you blamed 35 - blamed the shootings on 35 years of liberalism.   You went - you said, "I want to say to the elite of this country, the elite news media, the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite - I accuse you in Littleton of being afraid to talk about the mess you've made and being afraid to take responsibility for the things you have done, and instead foisting on the rest of us pathetic banalities because you don't have the courage to look at the world you have created."

Do you stand by that prescription today?

GINGRICH: Yes, I think the fact is, if you look at the amount of violence we have in games that young people play at 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 years of age, if you look at the dehumanization, if you look at the fact that we refuse to say that we are, in fact, endowed by our creator, that our rights come from God, that if you kill somebody, you're committing an act of evil.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what does that have to do with liberalism?

GINGRICH: Well, who has created a situation ethics, essentially, zone of not being willing to talk about any of these things. Let me carry another example. I strongly supported Imus being dismissed, but I also think the very thing he was dismissed for, which is the use of language which is stunningly degrading of women - the fact, for example, that one of the Halloween costumes this last year was being able to be either a prostitute or a pimp at 10, 11, 12 years of age, buying a costume, and we don't have any discussion about what's happened to our culture because while we're restricting political free speech under McCain-Feingold, we say it's impossible to restrict vulgar and vicious and anti-human speech.

And I would argue that that's a major component of what's happened to our culture in the last 40 years.
And that was it.

In a more just and beautiful alternate Universe somewhere, that would have been followed by Stephanopoulos pausing (David Caruso-like) dramatically removing his eyewear (David Caruso-like) and then verbally whipping the living shit out of The Newt.

In an alternate Universe, where the MSM had not been completely hollowed out and filled with sycophants, Marshall Petains and access-twitchy power-whores, Stephanopoulos might have followed up with something like:
As a serial adulterer, liar and racist who dumped his wife for a newer model while she was on her cancer bed, remind me again of what exactly make you fit to act as anyone's scold or moral arbiter?
Or…
As one of the giants in deploying hatespeech for political gain…
Or…
Do you think part of the reason your Party lost the midterms was having unhinged, fascist douchebags who feed on tragedy like gangrene feeds on an untreated chest wound like you as one of their leading spokesmen?
Or…
Really? Because for six years we’ve had a Republican a foreign policy based pretty much completely on ranting, incoherent, hate-laced, “Kill ‘em all!” xenophobia, brutally realized by bringing overwhelming firepower to bear on people who had done us absolutely no harm in a country that was absolutely no threat to us.

So honestly I’d have figured you would have been vest-button-poppin’ proud that the Virginian Tech murderer had modeled the foreign policy half of the GOP hymnal as flawlessly as Tim McVeigh enacted your “Annihilate the Government!” domestic half?
But Lil' George didn’t.

He just sat there.

Knowing the Gingrich was coming on. Knowing this was the topic. Knowing that, being a despicable Right wing shitwhistle, his answer was likely going to be doubling-down -- louder and crazier -- on his previous despicable statements...Lil' George just sat there. Dangling off of Gingrich’s screed as silent and stinky and conspicuous as a turd on a hairy dog’s ass.

Why?

Whywhywhywhy???

Why such profuse cowardice in the face of such soul-shriveling evil?

I have long entertained the fantasy of taking down the deans and duchesses of the MSM with a trank gun and rendering them off to my own, private “Come To Jesus” camp in the wilds of Hintervania. There they would be shocked, shivered and dosed to their hairplugs with scopolamine until someone explained to me why the entire fucking media has lost its fucking mind.

Why has the Fourth Estate – right before our eyes -- become a bunch of cowardly Fifth Columnists?

Why, when confronted with clear and overwhelming proof of their complicity and gutlessness -- when asked the simple question “Why?” -- do they go all squirmy and twitchy and outraged?

Why do Conservatives get to stand on desks with their hair on fire and shriek the most ludicrous, vile and mendacious hogwhiz – year after year after year after year after motherfucking year -- unchallenged? Why do these same howler monkeys -– who have been not just wrong but spectacularly, catastrophically wrong about everything, every time -- keep getting invited back in front of the cameras and onto the pages of major newspapers?

And when they rise from their crypts yet again to spackle yet another layer of Conservative lies on the wounded world – to send another wave of our kids off to die for no good reason, circle the wagons around another corporate monster, piss another precious pint of what’s left of our nation’s good name down the sewer, tax-cut-and-spend us further into debt – why do the same “journalists” who were ever eager to carve another slice out of Clinton’s ass over trivia, now piss themselves in like puppies in a thunderstorm and hide under the bed as Conservatives rape the truth two feet in front of them and them rub their noses in it?...

Why is it that if Dick Cheney were caught sodomizing an underage manatee in the triforium of the National Cathedral, the first three words out of any MSM haircut’s mouth would be, “But the Democrats…”?

And then, over the course of this week, first catching the last little bit of “The Smartest Guys in the Room” , and then watching Bill Moyer’s wonderful, expletive-evoking and long-overdue takedown of the press -- "Buying the War" -- on PBS, I was sadly reminded yet again what the Big Story really is.

When you widen the lens all the way out, what the history books will note as a the most important factor in the barbarization of early-21st Century America was the complete collapse of a free press. The slow motion defenestration of the heirs of Royko and Mencken. The bodysnatching of the children of Murrow; replaced with alien, oligarchy-friendly pods like Hume and Broder.

Which would actually make one helluva story!

As would reportage that in broad daylight here in the Land of the Free, an inept human scuff-mark named George W. Bush has managed to arrogate to himself unprecedented and virtually Imperial powers. Has worked every day of his Presidency and spilled the blood and treasure of others to unravel the fabric of American Democracy that so many of his betters spent their own blood and treasure to secure. That he has built a regime that Washington or Lincoln or either Roosevelt would have taken up arms to depose.

As would some ink spilled covering the ugly fact that millions of our fellow citizens actually despise democracy. Actually cheered on this two-bit Attila at every fascist step of the way.

As would the even uglier fact that, knowing now exactly what kind of monster the Crawford Dauphin really is, so many millions of our fellow citizens still cheer for this butt-end of the mental loaf.

As would some mention that one of America’s two major political parties has been completely take over, hollowed out and used as a battering ram to cripple our democracy and loot our treasury by a coalition of the dregs of American society.

But of course there are no such stories, because there is no longer a free, well-funded and unfettered press to investigate and report on them

The histories will show that while the Lords and Ladies of the MSM were fielding rock star salaries for regurgitation GOP talking points, they were simultaneously crying poormouth (we can't afford to keep armies of reporters on staff), and Americans who actual care about their country were reduced to cruising Comedy Central and Waiting for Olbermann for genuinely clear and insightful reporting.

Like Egyptian slaves, are we: gleaning the fields for stubble by night.

Which, above and beyond all other considerations, is sad. Heartbreakingly, tragically sad.

Because there are good, meaty conversations to be had on the vital issues of the day, but they cannot be had -- we cannot get on with the important business of healing and governing a great nation -- as long as the GOP exists in its current incarnation and as long as the national press is not held to public account and ridicule for its deliberate complicity in the poisoning of the well of civic discourse and the evisceration of Democracy in the country.
... 
And yet the MSM continues to prop up the rotting carcass of the GOP like the corpse in ”Weekend at Bernie's”, and waltz it lovingly across the national stage year after year after year, protecting it as ferociously as they would their own children even as it goes raving mad, putrefies and crumbles to reek and maggots in their arms.

Is it that meme-nto disease? That inability to form any new political memories after 1997? Or is it something darker?

Whatever the reason, the story behind it would certainly be gripping, epic, infuriating and a great and lasting service to the cause of Democracy.

Too bad we no longer have a press capable of telling it.

And here we are, ten fucking years later.

Stephanopoulos is still making a fine living rolling out the corporate media welcome mat for monsters.

Gingrich is still making a fine living from his inexplicable and unlimited open invitation to the Big Media Table.

Dowd has switched from making a fine living selling Bush Administration snake oil to the public to selling Both Siderist snake oil to the public.

And I'm still stilling here, pounding my fists against the same, big, stupid wall.

So before I curl up and start speaking in tongues let us return from "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" from ten years ago to "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" from yesterday for our hilarious denouement.
GINGRICH: Two quick things. First, there's one study last week, 91 percent of the elite media coverage of Trump has been negative. Trump will have negative coverage. It will have an effect on the polls. That's just the reality. This is the war we're in.  Two...

DOWD: War of facts and accountability.

GINGRICH: No, it's a war you guys make up.  But the second thing is...

DOWD: You guys?
Poor Matthew Dowd.  Like the rest of the Vichy media, he counted on his superior groveling and capitulation skilled to save him from being eaten by the Beast he helped create.

Also that "study" Gingrich was yapping about from "last week"?

For the record, it was generated by notorious crackpot Brent Bozell's "Media Research Center".

And it was "reported" in notorious crackpot online anal leakage NewsBusters.

And it was from back in the peak pussy-grabbing period of October of 2016 and not "last week".  

But when your political party has already succeeded in obliterating decades of inconveniently seditious history from the brains of its reprogrammable meat-puppet base, complaining about the difference between six months ago and "last week" seems like quibbling.  

Ron Fournier Knows You Can't Go out into Space With Fractions, Man!



I was going to burn daylight explaining how Newt Gingrich whipped Matthew Dowd's ass on the teevee machine this morning.  I might still, because I think it is instructive to understand how cunning hobgoblins like Gingrich beat simpering idiots like Dowd every time.

But this is so much more delightful and educational...






And then, seeing a roiling shitpile of Ron Fournier idiocy, Matthew Dowd felt compelled to do exactly what you would expect Matthew Dowd to do.

Protect the hive!



And then, seeing a roiling shitpile of Beltway pundit idiocy, Chris Cillizza felt compelled to do exactly what you would expect Chris Cillizza to do.

Canonbaaaaaall!
This is diuretics.

Very simple diuretics...


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Venn Diagram Intersectionality Of Fawlty Towers


In a week in which the Fox News sexual predator network gave Fox News sexual predator Bill O'Reilly a mountain of money so that he could join fellow Fox News sexual predator Roger Ailes in gilded sexual predator retirement...

...and President Stupid proved once again that he does not know fuck-all about how things get built or paid for...


...Fawlty Towers hits the sweet spot:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Professional Left Podcast #385



"Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself."  
-- Napoleon Bonaparte


Links:


The Professional Left is "sponsored" by...





...and, of course, listeners like you!



And When Sully Saw The Breadth of Conservatism's Failure, He Wept...


...for there were no more Liberals to scapegoat.

Ha!  Just kidding.

There are always more Terrible Liberal Conspiracies that someone out there will pay some superannuated True Conservative pedant to whinge about.

But it is a signal event in history of the Collapse of Conservative Public Intellectualizin' when both David Brooks and Andrew Sullivan (who is not a blogger anymore so shaddap!) scurry right past the whole Conservative Beverly-Hillbillies-Meets-Gremlins hellscape that is the maladministration of President Stupid...

...to glom onto exactly the same Liberal Crime Against Civilization on exactly the same day.

First (as I have already written about extensively today) we find Mr. David Brooks of  The New York Times blaming a small handful of college campus ruffians who yell mean things at speakers for single-handedly causing the Rise of Trump and the Fall of Western civilization .

You think I am kidding you?

...On American campuses, fragile thugs who call themselves students shout down and abuse speakers on a weekly basis. To read Heather MacDonald’s account of being pilloried at Claremont McKenna College is to enter a world of chilling intolerance.

In America, the basic fabric of civic self-government seems to be eroding following the loss of faith in democratic ideals...
See how Mr. Brooks mashes up two things that don't have anything to do with each other in order to reverse-engineer the group he viscerally loathes above all others (Dirty Hippies) into the cause of the problem which vexes him most (President Stupid)?

But what makes this worthy of mention again today is Andrew Sullivan's devoting fully half of his entire blog post today (it's not a blog so just stop it!) to a self-indulgent, privilege-reeking screech on exactly the same, trivial subject:
I’m happy to say that, the week after Easter, the Free Speech Movement just rose from the dead! Yesterday afternoon, Berkeley reversed itself and decided, after all, that it would allow Ann Coulter (I know) to speak on campus...

You have to think about those left-wing students today, as so many of their successors focus not on opening up a space for free speech of any kind, but on policing it with ever more diligence. The Coulter Kampf followed the mob attack on Charles Murray and his host, professor Allison Stanger, at Middlebury College, who is still in physical therapy for the concussion she suffered. It happened immediately after the successful sabotage of another talk scheduled to be given by Heather Mac Donald at Claremont McKenna College, in California, earlier this month. A student mob there did not gather to defend her right to speak, but rather to make sure she couldn’t.

The campus left, having once pioneered the idea of free speech, is now, sad to say, its most dedicated foe. And this is not some random student foolishness. It’s the logical consequence of an ideology actively taught and encouraged by faculty at elite colleges all over the country: that the power structures of a racist-sexist-ableist-queerphobic etc. society are so oppressive that non-p.c. speech is the equivalent of violence, and so must be shut down. The very existence of marginalized people is allegedly at stake.
He goes on and on like this because I suppose when the only tool you have is a pampered, cosseted life permanently walled up inside of the stale, forsaken Conservative intellectual bubble...

...every problem looks like a Dirty Hippie.

As for me, out here in the middle of Middle America where the likes of Brooks and Sullivan fear to tread, I'm just trying to keep body and soul together and keep the kids from being completely terrified that the president of the United States is a lying racist lunatic who gets his marching orders from Fox and Friends.  I'm a million miles away from the rarefied concerns and financial incentives of coddled Conservative Burke-offs and forelock-tuggers.  

Just a simple, everyday working stiff who feels about Ann Coulter very much as Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues felt about Illinois Nazis...



The David Brooks Touching Indians Tour Has Been Suspended Indefinitely


You might remember that exactly one hundred years ago 

fifty years ago 

ten years ago  

five years ago

about a year ago, after the Savior of the Republican Party --
DAVID BROOKS: It's going to be Rubio. I'm telling you, it's going to be Rubio. Right now, you have the conflict between the conservative, the philosophical conservative wing, which is the National Review crowd, and the rogue wing, which is talk radio and Trump. And so it's interesting to see how that breaks down.

Right now, Trump has the advantage in that, because the conservative movement is less conservative than it was ten years ago. The financial crisis has hit people hard, and they want a government that's on the side of the little guys, as long as it's not filled with liberal values. So Trump, in the short term, but we're prepping the establishment. Do not panic. There are going to be months of this. Wait for Rubio.
-- was effortlessly dispatched by a DayGlo racist pussy-grabbing con man...



...Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times was forced to face a terrifying truth.  A truth which Mr. David Brooks had spent his entire professional life denying.

It turns out that his Republican Party was, in fact, full of Republicans!

Shocking I know.

So after shacking up with a bottle of tequila the size of the Stanley Cup for a few days, Mr. David Brooks knew what he had to do to save his job.

First he needed to abjectly apologize to the only audience that really matters to him -- his plutocrat sponsors to whom he had spent his emtire career selling pile of Whig Fan Fiction as serious reportage on the state of the nation:
And now, that Trump has done all the things David Brooks swore he could never do at the head of an army of fire-eyed Republican meatheads that David Brooks swore could not exist,  Mr. Brooks has written a column so redolent with the stink of begging and fear and schadenfreude that it almost defies analysis.  Suffice it to say, Mr. Brooks really, really, really wants someone to come along and save him from the beast he has been feeding for 20 years.
And, second, to swear that that he was gonna by God get the fuck out of the Acela Corridor Quiet Car and go forth into the wilds of the America heartland, to lend an ear to the sad stories of Real American's (from the NYT, March, 2016):
Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.
He even went across the street to rend his garments on The Charlie Rose Show:
Brooks:  I messed up big time in not knowing Trump was coming.  And so when something like that happens  you take a look at yourself and you think "What did I miss about America?"  And...I'm...too much in the Acela corridor.  I've gotta get out.  That's one thing.  
Brooks:  Believe me, I travel every week, but I'm at a college here...so I'm always within the bubble.  And so I've gotta get out.  But then the other thing is, like, I've achieved way more career success than I ever thought I would, so it's time to take some chances on the spiritual realm, on the personal -- the emotional realm, and I've...got nothing to lose...
Gonna get out of that damn bubble, you betcha!  Especially colleges! They're the worst!

Gonna get out of that damn bubble and touch Indians!  See the mountains and the prairies and the whole rest of that song!

But it turns out that actual Republicans --


-- we here in the actual heartland interact with every single fucking day --


-- are wildly different from the Screensaver Republicans which Mr. David Brooks was clearly hoping to find:


And so, since Mr. David Brooks is in fact made entirely of Conservative shape-memory polymer from 1988, no matter how much stress and ideological deformation he is temporarily subjected to, as you humble scrivener has pointed out many times. he will always, always, always find a way back to regurgitating one of his two basic columns:
  1. The personal and triumphal when he finds occasion to flaunt his ridiculous, bankrupt ideology. 

  2. The moon-faced alien anthropologist, orbiting the Earth and noting the fall of American civilization from the safe distance of wealth and privilege that this relentlessly mediocre man has somehow been afforded when confronted with the cratered wasteland he and his beliefs have created.
Thus it will come as no surprise to anyone that Mr. Brooks returns fully to form today by blaming the rise of Trump on the rudeness of college students who rudely shout things at Mr. Brooks' friends:
Finally, there has been the collapse of liberal values at home. On American campuses, fragile thugs who call themselves students shout down and abuse speakers on a weekly basis. To read Heather MacDonald’s account of being pilloried at Claremont McKenna College is to enter a world of chilling intolerance.
And of course, the Extremes on Both Sides:
Then there has been the collapse of the center. For decades, center-left and center-right parties clustered around similar versions of democratic capitalism that Western civilization seemed to point to. But many of those centrist parties, like the British and Dutch Labour Parties, are in near collapse. Fringe parties rise.
And that our nation's college curricula now often includes all of Western Civilization history, and not just the Tighty Whitey parts that make myopic bubble-dwelling Straussians like Mr. David Brooks feel snuggly all over:
This Western civ narrative came with certain values — about the importance of reasoned discourse, the importance of property rights, the need for a public square that was religiously informed but not theocratically dominated. It set a standard for what great statesmanship looked like. It gave diverse people a sense of shared mission and a common vocabulary, set a framework within which political argument could happen and most important provided a set of common goals.

Starting decades ago, many people, especially in the universities, lost faith in the Western civilization narrative. They stopped teaching it, and the great cultural transmission belt broke. Now many students, if they encounter it, are taught that Western civilization is a history of oppression.
But of all the turds Mr. Brooks tries to polish up and pass of as Received Conservative Wisdom to his audience of privileged intellectual shut-ins, the biggest one is this:
While running for office, Donald Trump violated every norm of statesmanship built up over these many centuries, and it turned out many people didn’t notice or didn’t care.

The faith in the West collapsed from within. It’s amazing how slow people have been to rise to defend it.
"Many people"?  Really?  Are you fucking kidding me?

What Mr. Brooks is frantically trying to avoid saying is that the "many people" who didn't notice or care that Trump was obviously a lying racist lunatic were the rank-and-file members of Mr. Brooks' Republican party.  And it's not that they simply "didn’t notice or didn’t care" about the myriad, horrifying, suppurating character flaws of President Stupid.  No, Mr. Brooks, they fucking reveled in it.

And who has been fighting a long and lonely war against this rising tide of bigoted yahooism and for the values of reason, diversity, justice, religious pluralism and tolerance that Mr. Brooks' claims to esteem?

Liberals.

You know, the same people who have been standing athwart Mr. Brooks' Conservative movement and Republican party for the last 25 years shouting "Stop!" as clowns like Mr. Brooks pandered to the worst, most atavistic impulses of the Right in order to win elections.  The same people who shouted "Stop!" as clowns like Mr. Brooks looked the other way when trolls and hobgoblins like Gingrich and Limbaugh took over the Party of Lincoln.  The same people who shouted "Stop!" as clowns like Mr. Brooks aggressively deflected blame away from those trolls and hobgoblins by loudly blamed Both Sides for every Republican atrocity.

And now, here we are, nearly 100 days into a nightmare which Mr. Brooks helped midwife into existence as you and I an millions of others were shouting "Stop!"...

...and we find Mr. Brooks giving up entirely on even pretending that he gives a shit the Real America anymore, crawling right back into his brand-new, gated retreat deep inside the bubble and going right back to blaming the Rise of Trump on the dirty hippies who don't know how to behave around their better on America's college campuses.  Which sure sounds awfully familiar...


And the biggest joke of all?

Spoiler Alert! The single clearest predictor of who would stand on the side of Trump and who would stand against him was education.

From FiveThirtyEight:
Education, Not Income, Predicted Who Would Vote For Trump

Sometimes statistical analysis is tricky, and sometimes a finding just jumps off the page. Here’s one example of the latter.

I took a list of all 981 U.S. counties with 50,000 or more people and sorted it by the share of the population that had completed at least a four-year college degree. Hillary Clinton improved on President Obama’s 2012 performance in 48 of the country’s 50 most-well-educated counties. And on average, she improved on Obama’s margin of victory in these countries by almost 9 percentage points, even though Obama had done pretty well in them to begin with.
...

 If a county had high education levels, Clinton was almost certain to improve there regardless of the area’s other characteristics.

Now here’s the opposite list: The 50 counties (minimum population of 50,000) where the smallest share of the population has bachelor’s degrees...

These results are every bit as striking...
Apparently the more a person has been subject to the horrors of American higher education, the more likely they are to stand up for Truth, Justice and The American Way.

And you'll never guess what the other big driver among the ecstatic supporters of President Stupid!

Racial resentment. Surprise!

From the Washington Post, June, 2016:
More recent data is bringing the drivers of Trumpism into sharper focus, and what we're seeing is striking: Racial attitudes may play a larger role in opinions toward Trump than once thought. Economic concerns, on the other hand, don't seem to have as much of an impact on support for Trump.

Two recent studies bear this out. In the first, Hamilton College political scientist Philip Klinkner analyzed data from the 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) survey (a representative sample of 1,200 Americans) to compare feelings and attitudes toward Donald Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. He explored how economic opinions, racial attitudes and demographic variables predicted an individual's feelings toward Trump and Clinton. He found that one factor was much stronger than the other:

"My analysis indicates that economic status and attitudes do little to explain support for Donald Trump," he wrote for Vox last week. More to the point, "those who express more resentment toward African Americans, those who think the word 'violent' describes Muslims well, and those who believe President Obama is a Muslim have much more positive views of Trump compared with Clinton," Klinkner found.

In Klinkner's data, responses to questions such as "Do you think people’s ability to improve their financial well-being is now better, worse, or the same as it was 20 years ago?" and "Compared with your parents, do you think it is easier, harder, or neither easier nor harder for you to move up the income ladder?" had little effect on a person's preference for Trump or Clinton.

But,  Klinkner found, racial attitudes were highly determinative:
Moving from the least to the most resentful view of African Americans increases support for Trump by 44 points, those who think Obama is a Muslim (54 percent of all Republicans) are 24 points more favorable to Trump, and those who think the word "violent" describes Muslims extremely well are about 13 points more pro-Trump than those who think it doesn’t describe them well at all.
Well, Jiminy Christmas and Lord ha' Mercy.  It turns out, after all the hueing and crying and David Brooks speed-date spelunkings of the American Heartland, that Gonzo Freak Number One had it right all along:
In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile — and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely. 
The Republican Party really is little more than a mob of angry and often bigoted idiots whose Very Loud Opinions can are be flipped off and on by Fox and Friends in the service of con men and oligarchs who do not give the tiniest shit about this country.

And Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times still obediently drives their getaway car.  

Tom Waits Friday: Singapore




We sail tonight for Singapore
We're all as mad as hatters here

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Journalism Is Not a Profession or a Trade...

"It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits -- a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”

-- . Hunter S. Thompson, writer

(h/t @HalSparks)

We Are Still Half Fox and Half Free




I am delighted that Mr. Charles Blow has carved out a place for himself at The New York Times in which the Liberal critique of the Right for the last 20 years can grow and gain a wider audience:
Instead of being a grenade-throwing iconoclast bent on blowing up the D.C. establishment and the big-money power structures, he has stocked his inner circle with billionaires and bankers, and he has bent to the establishment.

Trump sold himself as a populist only to line his own pockets. Trump built his entire reputation not as the champion of the common man, but by curating his image as a crude effigy of the cultural elite.

He accrued his wealth by selling hollow dreams of high society to people who wanted to flaunt their money or pretend that they had some.

Put another way, Trump’s brand is built on exclusivity, not inclusivity. It is about the separate, vaulted position of luxury, above and beyond the ability for it to be accessed by the common. It is all about the bourgeois and has absolutely nothing to do with the blue collar.
However, there is a flaw in Mr. Blow's otherwise estimable reasoning. It is a flaw deep in the firmware of far too many Liberals that has been ruthlessly exploited over and over again to our disadvantage.  It is the pipe-dream that, at some point, the meatheads on the Right will begin to wake up and realize they've been played for chumps by people who only want to use them up, squeeze them dry and discard their husks.

As [The Washington Post’s The Fix] pointed out: “The poll showed just 7 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say Trump has performed worse than they expected him to. Fully 38 percent — five times as many — say he has performed better.”

This seems to me a fair point, but it requires us to have a better handle on the expectations for him in the first place. After all, the union has yet to crumble into ashes and his Twitter tirades have yet to push us into an impulse war.

Furthermore, the stubborn human resistance to admitting a mistake should never be underestimated. Admitting that Trump is failing, even when he is failing you and your family specifically, is an enormous pill to swallow. Acknowledging that your blindness, selfishness and fear compelled you to buy into a man who is selling you out may take more time.

But I think that time is coming, because Trump is an unabashed leech and an unrepentant liar...

No, Charles.  That time is not coming. It is an intoxicating mirage that even a man as astute as Barack Obama kept chasing right off the cliff over and over and over again, to our lasting and collective detriment.  From Politico, June, 2012:
Obama: Republican 'fever' will break after the election

President Obama told supporters that he expected the gridlock to end after the election, when Republicans can stop worrying about voting him out of office.

"My expectation is that if we can break this fever, that we can invest in clean energy and energy efficiency because that's not a partisan issue," Obama said, speaking to supporters in Minneapolis.

Obama pointed to deficit reduction, a transportation bill, and immigration reform as initiatives that could well pass in November.

"In this election, the Republican Party has moved in a fundamentally different direction. The center of gravity for their party has shifted," Obama said.

But Obama held out hope of the party moving back towards the center.

"I believe that If we're successful in this election, when we're successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there's a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that. My hope, my expectation, is that after the election, now that it turns out that the goal of beating Obama doesn't make much sense because I'm not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again," Obama said.
...
Yeah, that was absolutely never going to happen and anyone with an ounce of political and cultural perspective that is more than a minute long fucking well knew it was never going to happen.   

Obama's reelection did little to 'break the fever' in Washington

Around this time last year, President Obama was entering the final stretch of his reelection campaign and repeating a key rationale for a second term: Keeping him in the White House would chasten Republicans and end the dysfunction in Washington.

His reelection would prompt self-reflection, he said. It "might break the fever," Obama told Rolling Stone magazine last year. For the campaign, the message was a way of connecting his reelection effort to his 2008 election bid. Even as an incumbent boxed in by the opposition, Obama was still promising to bring change to a broken government.

Now, several months into his second term, with Washington on the cusp of the first government shutdown since 1996, the fever of brinkmanship has spiked.

Whether the president’s thesis misjudged his opponents or was merely wooing supporters with wishful thinking is an open question.

Even as Obama campaigned on the notion, few in Washington agreed with the president’s analysis...
On an emotional and political level, I can understand why any president (and especially a Democrat who is also the first African American president of the United States) would be incredibly reluctant to even hint at the truth about the Republican party, because the truth about the Republican party is so goddamn grim. 

You see, the overwhelming majority of the rank-and-file of the GOP are unsalvageably fucked-in-the-head.  They are happily brainwashed nitwits and racists who would gladly belly-flop their entire family into a live volcano if Fox News told them to and would spent their last moments on this Earth before being incinerated into iconoclastic ash cursing Obama or Clinton or Nancy Pelosi or Susan Rice for the ouch ouch burning.

After watching Republicans for 30 years marching down and down and down this long and horrifying road to smug, snarling, mindless political bestiality, it is about goddamn time that we started treating this grim fact as a fact.  Just as factoring in wind-speed and fuel consumption and the laws of gravity are critical to safely piloting an aircraft from A to B, this grim but immutable fact needs to be factored into our resistance to the Right.  

At this late date it absurd to believe that we will find any potential converts on the Right, primed and ready for a Road to Damascus moment if only Trump fucks them over enough.  Just as it is absurd to believe that we have any hidden allies in the corporate media who would be willing to put their position an paychecks at risk to help our cause once Trump fucks up enough.  

Of course President Obama was never going to say this out loud, or apparently every let himself think such terrible thoughts at all.  To him, every Republican pile of horseshit was taken as proof that a pony could not be far away, if only we clapped a little louder, bent over a bit further and were never so crass as to mention that the GOP was run by amoral thugs and hobgoblins.

But just because President Obama could never speak such truths out loud, doesn't mean that New York Times columnists shouldn't.  Because our country is now fully Half Fox and Half Free.  And as I wrote seven years ago...
In order to avoid wasting his presidency, squandering the opportunity we have given him, and letting the country spiral into a permanent corporate feudal pest-hole, Barack Obama must do the hardest thing of all: he must exceed his design specifications. This is not unprecedented, but like Franklin Roosevelt the capitalist-turned-social-Democrat or Abraham Lincoln the compromiser-turned-Emancipator, Obama must let go of a central pillar of his identity and embrace the brutal fact that our modern house divided against itself cannot stand.

That we cannot endure permanently half-Fox and half-free.

That we will become all one thing, or all the other.

And that this is your fight, President Obama.

This burden has fallen to you: it cannot be shirked and cannot be delegated.
Well President Obama did not rise to that challenge.  He failed.  And if we on the Left keep on chasing the ensorcelling fantasy that these fuckers on the Right will eventually wake up if only...if only... if only... 

...all we will end up accomplishing is "if onlying" everything that is kind and decent and noble about this country right onto the ash heap of history.