Friday, July 10, 2020

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


I can't believe the first version of this I ever heard was Derek and the Dominoes'.
And it took me all this time to look this one up!

•  It was a good week at Roy Edroso Breaks It Down, my highly successful and attractive newsletter. Open to the general public are my portrayal of a Presidential focus group on the statues to be included in the Garden of Heroes, and a lively discussion on whether the current conservative movement is mainly stupid or evil. Enjoy!

•  This is a pretty good example of rightwing bullshit in action, from Jordan Lancaster at the Daily Caller:
Black Lives Matter Totally Shuts Down Nation’s Capital On Independence Day
Now, I live in the District, and I went walking and biking around most of the day on July 4th, and saw only a little protest action -- a teach-in next to the Supreme Court, and the usual activities at Black Lives Matter Plaza. I know there were other actions throughout the day, but the point is, DC is ten miles square -- if it were "Shut Down" the citizens would notice.

The lede:
Black Lives Matter protests broke out in the nation’s capital on Independence Day resulting in the highway between Washington, D.C. and Virginia being shut down...
Commuters driving from work or from the fireworks event at the National Monument found themselves stuck in the city. Roads were closed off all around the nation’s capital as the protesters took over the highway.
Trapped! Like rats! Except if you used Route 29 or 420 or 650 or Connecticut Avenue or Wisconsin Avenue or etc. etc.  Lancaster cites a tweet ("Does anyone know how to get out of here") showing a map of lockdowns around the west end of the Mall -- without noting that these are not demonstrator-induced; Park Police fenced and blocked off practically everything from the Washington Monument to the Tidal Basin for Trump's fireworks' show.

It's not a shock these guys tried to convey to outlanders -- who are their real audience -- that DC was chaos; they continue to refer to every protest as "riots" and "looting" weeks after any riots or looting took place. The idea is to terrify suburbanites into voting for their increasingly unpopular party. It worked in 1968! Unfortunately most of the people it worked on have died, and Republican policies will probably finish off the rest of them soon.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

THE TOTALLY LOST CAUSE.

More proof that conservatives are devolving to cult status -- Helen Andrews at  The American Conservative:
A Lesson From Robert E. Lee
We can't find a reason to honor the Civil War general because we've forgotten why we needed him in the first place.
What do you mean "we," white woman? Andrews laments all the statues, Confederate as well as Non-, that have been torn down or attacked; we've heard that before. What makes her approach different from others (well, outside League of the South types anyway) is that she isn't drawing the line at Columbus or Founding Fathers, she's drawing it at Robert E. Lee: 
For me, a line was crossed this week when the faculty at Washington & Lee University voted to demand the school drop the second half of its name to erase its affiliation with Robert E. Lee. The moderate conservative’s justification for why it’s good to tear down Confederate statues but not those of the Founding Fathers is that Confederates are honored for defending slavery whereas the Founding Fathers are honored for other things despite their slave-owning. Whatever the general validity of that maneuver, it is obviously wrong here. Lee was president of the university; he gave it its distinctive character. His service as its leader was one of the great public-spirited acts of his late career, the most enduring of his many postwar gestures of patriotism and reconciliation.
If you're thinking Andrews will stick with the narrow claim that, sure, Lee committed treason in the defense of slavery but look at his Other Good Works, you read on and learn that it is Lee's personal honor as evidenced by his fight in that cause that makes him worthy to loom over the black and white citizens of America: He fought for the Confederacy because "his loyalty was to Virginia, and he had to follow his state."

Of course, as Adam Serwer has shown, Lee also believed with his fellow Confederates in the "subjugation" of blacks, which may have made separating from his Northern friends a little easier to bear, and he didn't mind whipping his own slaves for running away or splitting up their families for profit. But what has that to do with honor and virtue? That's just good business and household management, and it's not as if they were white.

In contrast, Andrews tells us, there were villains on other side, like this damned Yankee:
Virtue shines best by contrast, so consider Lee next to someone who was his opposite in every way: Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner. Even his defenders must admit that Sumner was a man of deep principle but absolutely no honor. He would break any promise, betray any confidence, reverse any position to serve his liberal causes. 
(The liberal cause he is best known for, by the way, is the end of slavery.)
He once won a Senate vote by persuading a Republican nay, who had paired with a Democratic yea who was deathly ill, to break his vow to abstain. He used the Constitution as a cudgel against his Southern opponents while feeling himself at perfect liberty to ignore any provision he disagreed with, on the grounds that nothing “against the Divine Law,” as he liberally interpreted it, could be binding.
So Sumner, deranged by this liberal notion of emancipation, behaved without honor, suh -- and look where it got us: A lot of black people running around free, and some of them and their scalawag white friends are tearing down statues! If only virtue had been rewarded in 1865! This is why patriots resist.

To my surprise, toward the end Andrews tries to get cute, and says if you don't want a statue of Lee you can pick some other honorable slavemaster:
So choose one. That is my proposal. The monument-destroying left should pick a statue they genuinely hate and say: leave it up.
I know not what course others may take, but my offer is this: Nothing.

Friday, July 03, 2020

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


Brothers and sisters,
There is always a reason to feel good.

•   I keep hearing conservatives crying over the firing or defenestration from executive positions of people accused of racist or sexist remarks. We heard a lot of this during the alleged persecutions of Brendan Eich and James Damore, and are hearing it now over such removals as that of student journalist Adrianna San Marco for dismissing institutional racism in a column and that of Boeing exec Niel Golightly for disputing the role of women in the military.

Of course, when it goes the other way, the conservative free speech squad goes silent:
Springfield police detective Florissa Fuentes fired over pro-Black Lives Matter social media post 
...The image showed her niece protesting in Atlanta. Flames leap up in the background and her niece holds a sign that reads: “Shoot the F--- Back.” A friend’s sign reads: “Who do we call when the murderer wears the badge?”... 
“After I posted it, I started getting calls and texts from co-workers,” Fuentes said during an interview. “I was initially confused, but then I realized they thought I was being anti-cop. I wasn’t. I was just supporting my niece’s activism. I had no malicious intent, and I wouldn’t put a target on my own back. I’m out there on the streets every day like everyone else.”
Fuentes is probably going to have a harder time bouncing back from her dismissal than the Boeing executive. (As for San Marco, she already has a gig with LifeZette. Wingnut welfare to the rescue!)

The PD probably had the right to fire Fuentes -- but if it does, then so does just about any employer have the right to fire any employee for their speech, even outside working hours -- from The Tampa Bay Times:
It played out several times in Tampa Bay in recent days. 
An employee announced publicly they’d been fired for participating in the widespread protests for racial justice. 
Their former employer, facing a deluge of phone calls, weaponized Yelp reviews and cries for them to be sued under the U.S. Constitution, said the firing had nothing to do with any protests. 
Florida lawyers say it does not matter which side you believe. 
Florida is an “at-will” state. “That means you can be fired for a good reason, for a bad reason, or no reason at all,” said Cynthia Sass, an employment lawyer in Tampa. “When it comes to private employers and your First Amendment rights, they don’t apply.”
Here's my modest proposal: End at-will employment. Let every employer and employee contract, and let their speech rights be protected under law. Then, when on your own time, you can not only support your cause -- whether Black Lives Matter or the Klan -- but you can bitch out your boss, just like the Founders wanted. Everyone shall tweet under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid!

I know to a dead certainty that conservatives will never take that offer. Because the truth is they aren't keen for free speech at all -- they're just keen to protect bigots, because bigotry is all they've got.

•   Been a while since I twigged you good people to freebies at Roy Edroso Breaks It Down, my 5-day-a-week subscription newsletter, so here are two: notes from a secret White House meeting, and my address to my fellow honkies. Enjoy!

•   Here's an Independence Day treat: If you feel vaguely guilty looking down on conservatives for their dumb, dishonest arguments, and feel you owe them at least some respectful attention, feast your eyes on this from Paulina Enck at The Federalist:
Why It Might Be Time To Retire ‘Born In The USA’ From Your 4th Of July Barbecue
Not even kidding.
A staple of the holiday for as long as I can remember is Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 classic, “Born in the USA.” However, this song should probably be retired as an Independence Day anthem, due to less-than-patriotic lyrics. 
Play “Born in the USA” at a party and one thing will become abundantly clear: most people only know the eponymous words to the refrain. The lyrical dissonance allows the upbeat tune and instrumentation to mask the darkness of the lyrics. Rather than the patriotic anthem it is perceived to be, Springsteen’s lyrics describe the hardships Vietnam veterans faced returning home after the war. 
The song’s first lines kickstart a song incredibly critical of the country...
It can't be, you think -- even other wingnuts who praise the song, from O.G. wingnut fraud George F. Will to Kyle Smith, usually pretend it's about how great Reagan's America is. Surely this is a Poe, shoved past Ben Domenech's attention by sleeper-cell editors! But Enck is a longtime culture-war crank and she is seriously trying to convince her fellow conservatives not to play the song on the Fourth of July.

Fans of false consciousness theory will note that Enck wants to have it both ways -- if you don't take her advice, she suggests, maybe that's okay too, because if an artifact offends our delicate conservative sensibilities we can just pick a new meaning for it on the grounds that we can't make out what it's saying:
There is something to be said about the song taking on new meaning, lyrics aside. Springsteen’s diction through the verses, while stylistic and enjoyable, leaves much to be desired in terms of clarity. And most people, when they listen, they are left with patriotic fervor, not a desire to upend the American system.
As I've been saying for decades now, conservatives have an obsession with making anything they like -- movies, songs, choc-o-mut ice creams -- into an endorsement of their politics, and now that Trump has made "serious" conservatism into a joke, they're just getting worse.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

NO MASKS, PLEASE, WE'RE PATRIOTS.

Even with the departure of Jonah Goldberg, there remain some spectacularly awful writers at National Review like Victor Davis Hanson and David Harsanyi. But in these days of desperate last-ditch Trump defense, the less spectacular, more shoulder-to-the-wheel propagandist Jim Geraghty deserves more attention.

Geraghty had of late been working the popular conservative trope that protests are causing the COVID-19 spread. He may have tumbled that this line isn't working, because earlier this week he seemed to back off, saying protests "may not be the primary factor spreading the virus around the U.S. in recent weeks, but that doesn’t mean they were not a factor at all," an obvious intermediate step to dropping the claim entirely.

Geraghty's got a lulu today. First he plumps what he calls "Maybe the Most Jaw-Droppingly Good Jobs Report in U.S. History" -- a pitch for the hometeam crowd, certainly, since Americans are starting to look at job reports the same way they look at the stock market: "Good news" that does not seem to reflect the reality they're actually living.

Perhaps sensing this, Geraghty gets right to work on bothsidesing the coronavirus catastrophe:
You can point to no shortage of policy mistakes made by President Trump, or governors such as Andrew Cuomo of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, or New York City mayor Bill de Blasio.
If that doesn't have you convinced that the president who kept telling America the virus was no big deal and stole PPE from the states is no more guilty than three leaders whose COVID curves actually went down (though Michigan's has recently ticked up a little), Geraghty has something else to sell you -- The reason the virus is out of control here is actually America's greatness
Some countries may have responded to this virus better than we did, but they are generally smaller, less populous, had experience with a previous serious virus, and/or have populations that are more trusting of their government and more inclined to obey strict rules and to assent to government monitoring of their movements and activities that Americans are unlikely ever to accept.
We're self-centered assholes who know the leaders we elect will screw us -- that's why we can't perform the simple public health measures that are saving the rest of the civilized world! [Pounds chest] We're "a country literally founded by people who violently rejected the existing legal and political authority when they deemed it unjust or draconian," says Geraghty, and that's why we don't need no stinkin' masks, whattaya say to that, Karen?

Having failed to dispel our Springtime-for-Hitler stare, Geraghty changes tack, seeking to convince us that lockdowns killed George Floyd who you liberals say you care about so much:
If the economy had not been shut down in Minnesota, would George Floyd have been out of work? Would he have allegedly tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill and then been in that particular place and time where former police officer Derek Chauvin would arrest him and hold his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes?
In fact, there wouldn't be any protests at all, Geraghty seems to say, if the lockdowns didn't have the kids so darned bored:
I don’t think we fully appreciate how much the still -- ongoing protests are, for young people, the only game in town. Just what else is there to do in still-heavily-locked-down America? They can’t go to the movies. They can’t go to a ballgame... 
In a normal summer, how much of young people’s mental energy is spent on enjoyable leisure, from the NBA to pickup games of sports to Marvel movies and other summer blockbusters?... 
Why are we shocked that young people are flocking to house parties and bars at night and protests during the day? What else have we left them to do?
Ah youth -- when summer is one long roundelay of partying in bars and then yelling "all cops are bastards" out in the warm sun! I expect National Review's geriatric subscribers, whose idea of protests haven't much evolved from Students Wildly Indignant about Everything, will buy it. And isn't that the important thing? At this point it's not like conservatives are trying to convince anyone but themselves.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

BUG CHASERS.

Speaking as a longtime observer of the conservative movement, let me say this: It has gone off the rails at such hyperspeed that, really, who even thinks of it as a movement anymore? The people who currently write for National Review, RedState, et alia, and columnists like Ross Douthat and Michelle Malkin may call themselves conservatives, but they don't promote anything like a coherent political philosophy -- unless white supremacy and donor service count as such.

And they don't advance ideas -- not even the shitty ones promoted by the "reformicons" in the days before Trump, with his open graft and brutality, made them look ridiculous -- but instead promote memes and conspiracy theories to try and keep their candidates in office and their larders full.

A big one these days is the crackpot idea that the national protests of the past month have caused the COVID-19 spikes we've been seeing in some states. The available evidence says otherwise, as those of us who live in major protest centers like New York City and Washington, D.C. who have seen their COVID-19 numbers go down will recognize; in fact, it's practically an object lesson -- if you shut down big disease vectors like bars, restaurants, and concert halls (as both polities have done until very recently), having protests in which nearly all participants are masked and considerate appears not to make too much of difference.

I mean, DC's just ten miles square and has had demonstrations of one kind or another every day for a month. And look:

Minnesota, where the George Floyd murder kicked it all off, has seen a rise in cases -- but, unlike NYC and DC, their state accelerated its reopening in early June, "allowing movie theaters, bowling alleys, gyms and pools to open to the public" and loosening restrictions on bars and restaurants, per KSTP.

Not dispositive but I have yet to hear a better explanation. Nonetheless trolls on Twitter -- including celebrity trolls like Ari Fleischer -- and elsewhere declare that the incredible vertical spikes in states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona are not due to their famous recent surges in bar-cramming and water sports, but due to protests. And it's not just obvious trolls -- Michael Brendan Dougherty, a tradcath National Review writer who usually commiserates with his fellow ecclesiastics about man's fallen state of liberalism (here's a ripe example in which MBD laments that by talking with a "potty-mouth," Kirsten Gillibrand is becoming just like Trump, whereas godly guys like Dougherty merely support Trump's policies, which is blessed in the sight of the Lord), is now putting his shoulder to the protest-COVID wheel.

Dougherty attacks Paul Krugman's assertion that Republican malfeasance has caused America's world-leading COVID wave, which would seem beyond dispute -- considering that the top Republican is Donald Trump, whose grotesque malingering on national COVID-19 policy, promotion of bleach and chloroquine as cures, and finally complete peaceing-out on the process as our numbers shot into oblivion, are the textbook definition of management by depraved indifference.

But Dougherty argues that New York -- which is full of liberals, see! -- is really to blame for "seeding the rest of the nation" with the virus because they let foreigners into the United States, under cover of being some sort of port. Also, "New York’s leadership, addled by partisanship, reacted to Donald Trump’s travel restrictions to and from China (and, later, Iran) by tacking in the opposite direction." In defense of this bizarre idea, Dougherty links to a tweet by a New York City Council member celebrating the  Chinese New Year parade in Chinatown, on... February 9.

(If that vaguely racist bit about associating Chinatown with China -- the country where what Trump calls "Kung-flu" came from -- looks familiar to you, congratulations, you've been paying attention.)

But the meat of Dougherty's argument is that Republican governors yelling "Belly up to the bar, suckers!" doesn't cause virus spikes because protests do.  First of all, "The New York Times reports that it is the youngest cohorts of adults who make up most of the latest cases." And what do young people do? Cram into bars and clubs the second they're open because they think their youth makes them indestructible? No! They all go to protests because they're SJW snowflakes who are "the least likely to be Republicans or to take their health cues from Donald Trump." (I guess that last bit means they're not likely to become morbidly obese and spray on a tan to look healthy.)

Dougherty blames his lack of evidence for this assertion on Democrats failing to have contact tracers ask test subjects if they've been to demonstrations -- and libs say they "are so concerned about science," LOL! The idea that, when you want to get people to volunteer for tests, you try not to act like an FBI front organization surreptitiously identifying protestors seems never to have occurred to Dougherty. Also I guess the COVID charts for New York City and DC aren't loading for him; he should call the IT Department.

Anyway, you're going to be seeing a lot of this bullshit, not only in the fever swamps but also on the loftiest perchs in wingnutdom.

UPDATE. I should also mention Megan McArdle's contribution: Back on June 5 she did her best to pre-denounce the protests as disease vectors, passive-aggressively insisting that if they didn't cause COVID spread, then all that stuff about social distancing was malarkey:
In a few weeks, one of two things will have happened. Either covid-19 cases will abruptly reverse their decline in some of America’s largest cities, and we will know that they were seeded by the days of rage we are living through . . . or they won’t. Either way, social distancing is over. 
In the happy scenario, the protests will have performed an enormous public service, even beyond agitating for justice. They are basically running a natural experiment that scientists could never have ethically undertaken: Do massive outside gatherings — including singing, chanting, screaming and coughing... 
Boy, it's like she was there, huh?
...— spread covid-19, or not? Along with evidence from the Memorial Day weekend parties at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, they may well demonstrate, once and for all, that the risk of spreading covid-19 outdoors is negligible.  
Pretending not to know the difference between marches and demonstrations where nearly everyone is masked and water parks full of people packing their faces with food and booze is why McArdle gets the big bucks. Anyway by her June 19 column she seemed to have abandoned this trope, worrying instead that under DC's upcoming Phase 2 "Washingtonians will soon spend a lot more time indoors with strangers, including in activities, such as exercising at the gym, that seem particularly prone to spreading the coronavirus" -- a concern I share! But if the increase in bar and gym traffic is accompanied by a rise in COVID cases, expect another column about how social justice gave us all a superbug.

UPDATE 2. Noah Rothman tries the same bullshit at Commentary, saying it stands to reasons that "leading young people into the streets to crowd each other and issue spittle-flecked screams of outrage into the air contributed to the virus’s resurgence as much as any other social behavior." He says reports that say otherwise are lying ("'No association was found,' they determined falsely"), though he shows no proof to the contrary, and even says reports that demonstrators tend to be good about masking -- which I have observed myself through a month of DC protests -- are also lies,  because protestors are young and "a May survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that people age 18-29 were the least likely to 'always' 'wear a cloth face covering when in public.'" And why would the protestors' behavior be any different than that of the kids chilling at The Lake of the Ozarks? Except, of course, more spittle-flecked!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

COMEDY = TRAGEDY PLUS SOCIOPATHY.

Byron York, longtime National Review propagandist now working for the malignant Washington Examiner, does a weird update of the old "you love blacks so much well what if they mug and rape you" shtick conservatives used to haul out whenever white liberals tried to be nice to anyone other than themselves:
WOKE DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. One of the most extraordinary stories to come out of the recent national unrest following the death of George Floyd came from a leafy neighborhood in Minneapolis called Powderhorn Park. After the Floyd incident, the residents, who are largely white progressives, decided that they would no longer call police if they needed help or if crime threatened them. "Doing so, they believed, would add to the pain that black residents of Minneapolis were feeling and could put them in danger," the New York Times reported. 
Word got around. Homeless people flooded into the neighborhood park -- there are now about 300 living in tents. Some are mentally ill. Some are addicted to drugs or alcohol. "Their presence has drawn heavy car traffic into the neighborhood, some from drug dealers," the Times reported. "At least two residents have overdosed in the encampment and had to be taken away in ambulances." 
That has made some of the residents a bit nervous. Of course they want to take a stand against the police -- what progressive doesn't these days? -- but it really is a bit scary. So the new neighbors are not quite as welcome as they were just a week or two ago. "I'm not being judgmental," one resident told the Times, explaining why she not longer let her children play alone in the park. "It's not personal. It's just not safe."
Ho ho, silly liberals! And one of them was recently robbed at gunpoint -- the gun suggests to me his assailants were not homeless bums -- and feels bad about getting the cops involved. York has a laugh over this, omitting what the guy said when the Times asked him about that: "Yeah I know and yeah it was scary but the cops didn’t really have much to add after I called them." (Come to think of it, how many of us ever get anything from the cops after a robbery besides a strong sense that nothing can be done?)

But the signal offense in York's column is that he seems to think the homeless people didn't exist before the liberals' "wokeness" summoned them -- like they were spontaneously generated. I can guarantee you they did exist, but were existing elsewhere, almost certainly in a less privileged community. York is ragging on the residents because they didn't have the sense to use their privilege to send the homeless to go bother someone who lacked their civic muscle and thus couldn't force the bums out of their neighborhood.

I guess the idea that, instead of inflicting the misery of our most desperately poor citizens on the next-most-desperately-poor citizens, we might address the homeless problem directly by, for example, giving them homes is too ridiculous for York even too contemplate. You know, like giving everyone health care.

Meanwhile the economy just shit out another million-and-a-half unemployed, many of whom will be swelling the ranks fo the unhoused shortly. I wonder how long blow-dried toffs like York will be able to keep laughing it off.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

TRENDS IN TRUMP TWITTER.

When you think of conservative Twitter trolls, what do you envision? Confederate flags, poor spelling and punctuation, tendentious arguments? Yes, I've seen all that, but this guy I met today kind of gave me a new perspective.

You may recognize the similarity of his avatar to an image that is very popular among anti-Semites:



I asked the guy, "Why say 'Estonian conservative' when 'neo-Nazi' is so much shorter?" and he said, ha, isn't that just like a liberal!


When I showed him that I had his avatar figured out, he wondered aloud why I was making a big deal out of it and insisted that I had no grounds to call him a neo-Nazi.


("Happy merchant," btw, is a well-known name for the anti-Semitic thing. Oh, and apparently the "littlepony" thing now has some Nazi provenance as well.)

You can imagine how it went after that -- he slid from professions that he'd been slandered as a neo-Nazi to identifying the outfit in which he dressed his anti-Semitic caricature as that of the Estonian Waffen-SS in World War II, of whom he was very proud ("You have no idea what these men did for their people, families and country. More than you ever will"). Long story short, the guy approves of the SS because they fought for Hitler against the Russians, who he really hates -- though whether he hates them more than Jews, or thinks of them as the same thing, I didn't catch.



I tagged out early but watched in fascination as he kept this routine up with other people, and was struck by the Trumpian approach -- first, the denial of his obvious self-association with repulsive bigotry; then, when discovered, asking what the big deal is and why I was triggered; then, lengthy justifications of his Nazi cosplay. Oh, and "You're the real Nazi [laughing emojis]."


I wouldn't go so far as to say that guys like this and the other Trump fans believe exactly the same things all down the line, but it's something to consider that very, very far right people -- including peek-a-boo Nazis from Eastern Europe -- seem to be picking up the same lingo and style of argument.

UPDATE. @ControlCentral1 reminds me of the Sartre quote on how anti-Semitic arguments work ("Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies..."). Now it all makes sense!