Sunday, June 25, 2017

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...about that thing where, if you say Trumpcare will kill people, you're actually inciting violence. This has quickly become a popular favorite, and smart people other than me have noticed this aggressive demand for civility is rich coming from people whose depraved indifference to human life is obvious however temperately it's expressed.

Among the outtakes: A lot of the brethren used the homicidal fantasies of Johnny Depp as proof that liberals want to kill, kill, kill. Why should that be? What if we held them responsible for the yammerings of professional wrestlers? (Besides the ones who run for or hold public office, I mean.)

It was pretty awful that some Nebraska Democratic official said he wished Steve Scalise would die, but number one, he got immediately fired; and number two, it's hard to be solemn about it with Jason Hopkins of The Resurgent intoning, “Let me emphasize that this was not some random individual. He was the technology chairman for the Nebraska Democrat Party.”

Also funny: NewsBusters getting mad that the Lame Stream Media didn't freak out like rightbloggers when Elizabeth Warren referred to the Senate Trumpcare bill as "blood money" (“Sick! No Criticism on Nets for Elizabeth Warren’s ‘Blood Money’ Attack”). Come on, Jake Tapper, that was a foul!

Funnier still: Nikki Haley getting booed during NY Pride, then bitching about it. All because she supported a ban on gay marriage as governor and currently serves a man everyone in New York knows is a scumbag. Heat-kitchen, Haley; if you don't want to take crap for your crap, maybe politics isn't for you.

Friday, June 23, 2017

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


We often forget, because Hope made it his signature,
that "Thanks for the Memories" is a sad song.

•   If you like comics, and are enough of a connoisseur to know the spectacular work of Danny Hellman, have I got news for you: Hellman's Resurrection Perverts: Hunter's Point is out in hardcover, and it's a corker. It stars the last of the old-fashioned porn kings, Harry Homburg of Harlot magazine, riding high from the biggest celebrity-skin caper of his career when he's suddenly air-lifted into the infinite. It's the first volume in a continuing saga, so there's loads of (I suspect) foreshadowing -- which you'll have time to notice because the graphics are expectedly gaze-worthy and the printing surprisingly rich. Highly recommended, as a gift or for personal use.

•   I see the wingnuts who think modern-dress Shakespeare is a death threat are at it again. Here's the new version of the shtick: if you point out that, by taking away their health care coverage,  the Republican Obamacare replacement basically surrenders thousands of people to untimely deaths, you're shooting Steve Scalise all over again. John Nolte at The Daily Wire:
It has only been 10 days since Rep. Steve Scalise was gravely wounded after a Bernie Bro attempted to massacre two dozen Republican lawmakers guilty of nothing more than practicing baseball. And it has not even been 10 days since shots were fired at a truck flying a "Make America Great Again" flag.
Nevertheless, and although the death threats against the GOP continue to mount, in the wake of two politically-driven murder attempts, the kind of rhetoric the media assures us provokes this kind of violence, has only increased from the mainstream Left.

On Thursday, no less than the political media's very own It-Girl, Senator Elizabeth Warren, accused Republicans of wanting sick grandparents and babies to die, of writing a healthcare bill that amounts to nothing less than "blood money." Speaking on the floor of the Senate, Warren outright accused Republicans of "paying for tax cuts for the wealthy with American lives"...
Mary Katharine Ham tries the same thing at The Federalist: "You want to go that route while one of your colleagues is still in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound?" Why can't Warren do the sensible thing and just mildly criticize the bill as "not very nice" before giving up?

From time immemorial, statesmen have warned about the human cost of legislation -- in fact, I seem to remember some talk of "death panels" a few years back. Yet now opposition is murder. Nolte adds:
Also on Thursday, left-wing actor Johnny Deep openly mused about the idea of assassinating Trump...
Same thing as Liz Warren, right? I mean, they both allude to mortality.
...And where is our objective, unbiased media? Right back to pushing the Trump Is a Dangerously Unstable Traitor Who Pees On Russian Hookers hoax — which is its own kind of clarion call for violence.
Criticism of The Leader is assault! The brethren seem to be on the downside of their traditional mood swing between triumphalism and victimhood, and will be whimpering in their safe spaces by the time the Republicans amend EMTALA to make poor people who go to the ER and are kept overnight in the hospital sleep standing up, and maybe mop up their own blood. Ugh. Would it be assaultive to say that I wouldn't piss on these people if they were on fire?

•   Rather than give it any close reading, I will merely quote you one paragraph --
But here’s the funny part. If Hollywood listened to the writers of Ms. magazine and went all-in on an Andrea Dworkinized Wonder Woman and distributed it globally, you know what the right term for that would be? Imperialism! Specifically, cultural imperialism.
-- which ought to be enough to convince you that Jonah Goldberg is still, as Harry Truman suspected of Joe McCarthy, not mentally complete.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

YOU HAVE NO IDEA.


Avik Roy rejoices in the imminent deaths of thousands, but The Baffler used a curse word so I guess they're the uncivil ones.

Many tender-hearted types are wondering how the Republicans can possibly be going ahead with their absurd Obamacare repeal/Medicaid destruction plan. At the Los Angeles Times, Michael Hiltzik seems to think they just don't realize the damage they're doing:
It’s proper to note that there’s a major disconnect between the way the Republicans consider Medicaid, which is as a program that largely benefits the expendable poor, and the reality: It’s the nation’s largest single health insurer. Of its 73 million enrollees, 43% are children and 13% blind and disabled persons. The program covers “more than 60% of all nursing home residents and 40% of costs for long-term care services and supports,” reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The program pays for half of all births in the U.S.--in some states, two-thirds. Plainly, cutting or capping Medicaid benefits will cause pain and suffering across a broad spectrum of Americans.
Is it uncharitable to laugh? I guess the only Republicans Hiltzik knows are sober, housebroken, come-let-us-reason-together types like Michael Bloomberg -- who, in the true spirit of No Labels, recently told everyone to unite behind the man he once called a demagogue and a con artist. (Maybe Trump promised him tickets on a spaceship that, when the time comes, will rescue select rich people from the heat death of this planet. That'll be his last and best grift -- the one that gives him some comfort and pleasure in his death throes, as he imagines his suckers, roasting as he is, but also realizing they've been duped.)

At least Hiltzik knows Republicans don't care about the poor, but he can't allow himself to see the enormity of their cold disdain -- that it isn't just the poor they don't care about. Nor is it just the disabled, the elderly, and children he mentions. Who can explain how their bill is good for any Americans except a small number of extraordinarily wealthy ones who stand to benefit from the defenselessness of the uninsured? No one can and no one bothers. Certainly no one believes Paul Ryan's blather about how voters will appreciate that this crippled Brundle-at-the-end-of-The-Fly monstrosity gives them more "freedom." That he didn't trouble to think of anything less ridiculous than that says a lot. The Republican concern for deficits is a widely-acknowledged fraud; the tax cuts for the rich that are an admitted goal of the legislation already start to roll out in the Senate bill. Their secretive deliberations notwithstanding, they're not even trying to hide it. This is as close to an act of depraved indifference as politics gets.

Some liberals cling to the hope that simple political expediency will deflect them in their course. Don't hold your breath. While the long start times of the new bill somewhat insulate their near-term electoral chances, I don't think they're worried about what will happen even when the punters catch on. In the past, they felt the need to play it cagey -- to pretend to care about bipartisanship, the neediest, morality, etc., because politics is volatile and any sign of disdain for the voter, however small and unconscious, might blow up on election day. But the victory of the id monster Trump has torn away all their pretense of decorum; Russian hacking, gerrymandering, and the simple depravity of the voting base have convinced them that they can do anything they want and get away with it. And while some people are made vicious by restraint, history shows us that politicians are made vicious by the lack of it.

I'm put in mind of the scene in Reversal of Fortune where Dershowitz tells Von Bulow that he's a very strange man, and Von Bulow responds, "You have no idea." With the Republicans we are starting to get a glimpse into that deep, dark pool.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

THIS YOUNG MAN WILL GO FAR.

Remember when Megan McArdle was telling a horrified and in some cases grief-stricken audience that the Grenfell Tower inferno was no reason to go all crazy with sprinklers and fireproof cladding and other so-called "safety" features when the money would be better spent on corporate tax cuts? I think one Max Bloom, a National Review "editorial intern," has topped her -- figuratively speaking, of course, though he defends McArdle with great passion, lamenting that she was "savaged on social media" only for her "transparently reasonable sentiments... People don’t, it turns out, particularly appreciate the notion that safety is a trade-off; they particularly don’t appreciate hearing about the importance of such trade-offs in the aftermath of an unbearable tragedy."

That last is true and, if you were unfamiliar with the sort of people who write for National Review, you might expect Bloom next to acknowledge the corollary: that people get angry at "transparently reasonable sentiments" like McArdle's when they're expressed on the heels of a tragedy because that's how normal human beings react to such boorishness. But Bloom seems never to have had such a realization. That is, he knows these humanoids respond in such a way, but he fails to see the sense in it -- why are these littlebrains so sentimental over something as ridiculous as the lives of people who are not Max Bloom? Don't they see how smart guys like him suffer from their unreasonableness?
There is very little that is worse for skeptics of big government than a tragedy. Since people demand action after a tragedy, tragedies tend to lead to greater regulation, and regulation is subject to a ratchet effect: Once regulations are passed, they are hard to reverse and the new regulatory climate becomes normal. The political effects of a tragedy can shape society for decades — it was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in lower Manhattan that brought about new regulatory standards in factories, and the Titanic changed maritime safety forever.
I like to think some NR editor suggested he put in the Titanic to show that rich people die in these things, too, not just grubby poors; and Bloom thought, well, it's pandering but I'll be needing his letter of recommendation.

Anyway, Bloom eventually counsels compromise with the weepy regulation-ratcheters, for the good of the cause:
It stands to reason, then, that conservatives and libertarians have an interest in promoting modest, cheap, and popular safety rules and regulations. If the United Kingdom had banned the flammable cladding used in Grenfell, as America and Germany had, no one would be talking today about tearing down low-income housing across London, and the cost would be only a few thousand pounds more per development.
The real Grenfell tragedy is, we could have saved money!
Libertarians in particular will find these preventive regulations difficult to stomach. But most of the world is not libertarian — certainly, not after a trauma of this magnitude — and so, difficult to stomach though they may be, safety rules and regulations, carefully chosen and managed, are a worthwhile investment in a slightly more libertarian future.
As grotesque as it looks when put so baldly, it's really what the tradeoff's been all along -- the rest of us trying to live safer, healthier, more humane lives, and these monsters trying to figure out just how little they can get away with letting us have.

Monday, June 19, 2017

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...about the Julius Caesar nonsense and where it comes from.

As I've mentioned previously, conservatives' whole idea of culture is driven by their will to power. Their oft-repeated mantra about it is "politics is downstream of culture," which is an expression of frustration that the power they've won with politics is incomplete. They see people responding naturally to art, and see that as a kind of power; they jealously want to turn it to their own purposes, but are temperamentally averse to the empathy and patient attention to human nature (as opposed to a vulpine attention to human behavior patterns) that's a precondition of artistry.

So they try in their crippled, ugly way to reverse that power with weird apings of journalism, using things that look like arts criticism as Rupert Murdoch uses splash-smears in his tabloids. You may recall how enraged they were when feminists were claiming the Wonder Woman movie for themselves and even tried to sabotage women-only screenings of it — but when the movie became a huge hit, they spun and insisted feminists didn’t actually like Wonder Woman (cf., “Alt-Left Insanity: Wonder Woman Isn’t LGBTQ Or Black Enough for Libs,” “Run, Wonder Woman! The Feminists Are after You!” etc). After writing endless screeds against The Handmaid’s Tale because of its feminist subtext -- “The Handmaid’s Hysteria” is one ripe example -- National Review, making a concession to the show's ubiquity and popularity, recently  published -- I swear I'm not making this up -- “The Conservative Case for The Handmaid’s Tale." It’s against statism, see, not the patriarchy.

So the controversy over a 400-year-old play is no shock to me, though it is a melancholy thing to see journalists trying to explain to the punters basic artistic conventions as if they were obscure maritime laws. Well, that's what you get when you don't fund arts education. Also when you teach blanket mistust of all data that contradicts one's prejudices as "skepticism": one of my more depressing exchanges this weekend was with one of the many conservatives who refused to accept that an earlier version of the play had been performed with an Obama-like Caesar. When I sent her a review of that production from The American Conservative, she refused to accept it and demanded video. "That's just a picture & an article," she said. Maybe Noah Millman was lying to protect liberals!



Friday, June 16, 2017

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


Heard about this from Milo Miles at the Voice. Here's the lyrics.
A little of the old pep for lunchtime.

• One of the things libertarians love to do is find some rightwing nutcake and weep over the "shaming" to which he is subjected by liberals. In 2015 Pax Dickinson got his rubdown from Reason's Cathy Young, who mourned the "career-killing Internet outrage" and "social media outrage wheel" that caused him to leave/get canned by Business Insider. This "raises troubling questions about speech and consequences," said Young. There's plenty I could say about 1.) non-wingnuts who get fired for speech all the time, for whom such as Young never weep; 2.) the richness of a libertarian complaining that a private employer released an at-will employee; and 3.) hilarious clauses like "the Titstare incident, which precipitated Dickinson’s conflict with feminists online." But instead let's just move on to an event announcement that recently popped up online for an event called Unite the Right, at which Dickinson and such other intellectual giants as Baked Alaska and Based Stickman will be "demonstrating in support of the Robert E Lee statue, the right of white people to organize for our interests, and to show that we will not be intimidated by harassment campaigns of the Left." @popehat has reproduced a poster for the event containing the usual Nazi and Confederate insignia -- just for laughs, mind. Again, I'm willing to make a deal with the Right: Make private speech off-limits as grounds for termination in general, and I'll join them in supporting these guys. I'm secure that no one will take that deal.

• One Tiana Lowe:
The Conservative Case for The Handmaid’s Tale
The tale is really an indictment of collectivism.
See, Gilead makes everybody do the same thing, and that's classic Liberal Fascism, not something religious people would ever do. It's a The Federalist joint right down to the shitty writing ("But the visual homogeneity of the handmaids’ dress acts rather as a forceful imposition of a kind of Marxian class consciousness"), but surprise, it's actually at National Review, for which Lowe interns. From Lowe we can expect no better, and in truth I guess that goes for National Review, too; in the Trump Age even the hoity-toity wingnut mags must devote themselves to Kulturkampf for Dummies, which embarassing as it is at least spares them the shame of pimping their actual policies.

• Speaking of wuuuutt:
Beware of Blaming Government for London Tower Fire
Perhaps safety rules could have saved some residents. But at what cost to others' lives? There's always a trade-off
Yes, it's Megan McArdle with the libertarian kill 'em all, let the market sort 'em out POV. Here's one gambit: why bother to try and protect littlebrains with your stupid "safety" regulations when anything might kill them anyway? Like speed limits:
To drive a car even at 5 miles per hour is to accept a small risk of killing oneself and others. To drive at 50 miles per hour is to accept a much higher risk of doing so. It’s a calculation: risk versus reward.
 And most freedom-loving people Can't Drive 55, much less the 5 mph you liberal nannies probably want, so really, what's the point? Also, "automobile transport has also saved a lot of lives, by enabling the economic growth that has made us richer and healthier." Ever think of that, statists?
Back to the case at hand: Maybe sprinkler systems should be required in multifamily dwellings.
 BUT!
...It’s also possible that a sprinkler system would not have saved lives in that Grenfell inferno, as the fire apparently spread outside the building as well as within it.
 Yeah, because the council, in a McArdlean cost-benefit calculation, thought the extra few pounds for fireproof cladding wasn't worth it. Jesus Christ, it's like libertarians are just trying to see how far they can go before people figure out they're actually aliens sent to earth to kill us and steal our resources.

• Oh, and speaking of longtime alicublog favorites, I heard about this bluegrass family band murder -- son kills brother and mother, botches suicide -- and Steve of No More Mr. Nice Blog pointed out the family's homepage...
Children need structure, and there's plenty of structure in this house. Our boys know what they are supposed to be doing from sun-up to sun down. They are busy doing chores, running the farm, doing schoolwork and, of course, practicing for performances. Everything they need is here on the farm with their family...

Processed and fast foods are forbidden. Food is nourishment for the mind as well as the body so it's important to eat right. We mostly only eat foods that we grow or we buy from local farmers, that way we know it's healthy and natural. I give my boys a large spoonful of cod-liver oil after dinner to keep their hearts and minds strong.

TV and video games are banned. They produce redundant minds and lazy children...

We live very traditional roles in this household. I stay at home and take care of the cooking, cleaning, teaching our boys and managing the family band...

Homeschooling the boys means that they are not affected by outside influences and are able to grow up in a safe and wholesome environment...
...and I thought, boy, this Benedict Option thing isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

AIN'T MY CRIME.

As you may have noticed, it seems every wingnut who's blaming the attempted assassination of Steven Scalise on ordinary liberal discourse has expressed a very different view of hard political language in the past -- e.g., "Pastor who demonized Obama as the antichrist calls for end to political demonization of Republicans." It's not just the snake handlers and Newt Gingrich either. Take William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection. In the aftermath of the Gabby Giffords shooting in 2011, he was talking about the "blood libel" that Sarah Palin's violent rhetoric and rifle-sight graphics had something to do with it, and telling David Frum, who suggested Palin reach out to Giffords, that showing too much sympathy would be a waste of time, indeed counterproductive:
Frum wants Palin to play on a the field drawn by vicious liars who never will be satisfied with any response from Palin. Any of the responses Frum suggests, such as going to Giffords’ office to lay flowers, would have ignited even more dishonest fury from the left-blogosphere and mainstream media.
Flash forward to Jacobson today:
While criminal culpability rests with the shooter, there also is no doubt that we are experiencing an unprecedented derangement from establishment Democrats, pro-Democrat media (which is almost all of the mainstream media), the entertainment industry and on campuses. 
We have been documenting the often violent opposition to Trump for over a year, but particularly since the election. The entire concept of “The Resistance” invokes violence...
We're hearing a lot of calls for civility from people who will do anything -- write bills to strip millions of citizens of health coverage under cover of darkness, portray a Shakespeare play as an assassination threat to rile the rabble, and press guns into the hands of every man, woman and child in America at the behest of their donors -- to get and hold power; that is, after all, why they not only tolerate but enable the grifts and grafts of Trump. I understand why six-figure TV news wankmasters have to indulge this hypocrisy, but I'm not having it. I'll go on pushing for a better, fairer deal for all Americans, and anyone who wants to call it incitement can kiss my ass.

UPDATE. Top comment from Shakezula: "'The entire concept of “The Resistance” invokes violence...' But the concept of Tea Party Patriots invokes harmless colonial cosplayers sitting down for a nice cuppa and some wafer-thin cucumber sandwiches."

Also, at the Washington Examiner:
Support for Southern Poverty Law Center links Scalise, Family Research Council shooters
...The Southern Poverty Law Center still lists FRC as an "anti-gay" hate group on the "hate map" Corkins used. "The SPLC's reckless labeling has led to devastating consequences," said FRC President Tony Perkins. 
The Family Research Council is, in point of fact, an anti-gay hate group. The SPLC is right to call them out on it; the truth is not an incitement to violence but a defense against it.  It makes sad and perfect sense that as wingnuts weaponize the the Simpson Field shooting, one of their first targets should be a group that labors to prevent hate crimes.

THE LAW IN ITS MAJESTY ALLOWS THE RICH AS WELL AS THE POOR TO SPEND ALL DAY PLAYING MINECRAFT.

Libertarians, man...
The game [Andromeda] boasts an intricate conversation system, and a substantial portion of the playtime is spent talking to in-game characters, quizzing them for information...
At a certain point, it started to feel more than a little familiar. It wasn't just that it was a lot like work. It was that it was a lot like my own work as a journalist: interviewing subjects, attempting to figure out which one of the half-dozen questions they had just answered provided useful information, and then moving on to ask someone else about what I had just been told. 
Eventually I quit playing. I already have a job, and though I enjoy it quite a bit, I didn't feel as if I needed another one. 
But what about those who aren't employed? It's easy to imagine a game like Andromeda taking the place of work.
Unless your work is slaughtering pigs or paving roads. The essay is called "Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now.)" It's by Reason's Peter Suderman, who clearly loves gaming and believes the hours he spends at it "have made my life richer and better, more interesting and more tolerable." Nonetheless, he says, "if I had to choose between gaming and work, I know I'd pick the latter."

There are of course millions of young men out there who don't and can't make that choice; Suderman talks to experts about them. Many of them, it turns out, spend their ample free time playing video games. That may seem bleak, even dystopian to you --  The Matrix meets Harlan Ellison.

But Suderman sees the upside: Games "bring order to gamers' lives." Studies are alleged to show that "far higher levels of overall happiness than low-skilled young men from the turn of the 21st century," when games were less prevalent and sophisticated, and jobless youths had to go out to have a good time. Which might almost sound convincing, until you run into this bit:
A whole generation of men obsessively playing video games during their prime decades of life may not be ideal, but most would agree that it is preferable to riots.
Maybe "happiness" is not in this context what we normally think it to be.

Suderman compares the workless gaming life to progressive social benefits -- "video games, you might say, offer a sort of universal basic income for the soul." He seems to like the idea -- it'll prevent riots, after all -- but he doesn't want the government to pay for it -- that "playing video games does not incur a direct burden on taxpayers" is one of its great libertarian benefits. Far better and more cost effective to feed everyone's soul instead, as the long-haired preachers serving Pie in the Sky knew.

By essay's end, when Suderman talks at length about how good gaming has been to him -- an educated, ambitious young man who was a safe bet not to wind up in his parent's basement -- it's clear that the whole detour through the land of the jobless console jockeys was just a feint at relevance, and the reason Young Men Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs is OK is because nobody at Reason, and maybe anywhere else, actually cares about them -- certainly not enough to tell us when or how the "(For Now)" part is supposed to end.