Wednesday, August 12, 2020

HORSE(SHIT)RACE

Back on August 1, Politico came up with story seeming to predict doom for Ilhan Omar, wingnut-scaring Muslim Congresswoman from Minnesota and one of the so-called "squad" of young firebrand Democratic women: "'We don’t need someone distracted with Twitter': Ilhan Omar fights off tough primary challenge," ran the headline over a picture of Omar looking pissy. Lede:
Rep. Ilhan Omar is one of the best-known Democrats from the class of 2018, a lightning-rod member of the Squad whose outspoken liberal politics have made her an enemy of Donald Trump. 
Back home in Minneapolis, however, her polarizing national profile is complicating her bid to win a second term. 
Polarizing! Complicating! The story intimated grave danger for Omar from who-he challenger Antone Melton-Meaux:
Facing a political newcomer who raised a jaw-dropping $3.2 million last quarter — much of it from pro-Israel donors who oppose Omar’s foreign policy stances — Omar suddenly finds herself on the defensive against claims that she’s too divisive to effectively represent the solidly Democratic district.
You had to go MinnPost to find out that Melton-Meaux's backers, who had built his war chest to six times the size of Omar's by mid-July, tended to be not only "pro-Israel" but also rich -- including, MinnPost reported, big cheeses like "2019 Minneapolis mayoral candidate Tom Hoch, former University of Minnesota presidents Bob Bruininks and Eric Kaler, former U.S. attorney in Minnesota Andrew Luger, Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle... Fairview Health Services CEO James Hereford, Ecolab CEO Douglas Baker, Kelly Doran, of Doran Companies, Vance Opperman, and Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the co-CEO of Carlson Holdings."

Three-quarters of Omar's money, on the other hand, came from small donors who don't have to report their contributions, MinnPost reported. This feature of the race Politico alluded to only briefly, via an Omar ally who "criticized Melton-Meaux for receiving 'big special interest money.'"

In pursuit of their "divisiveness" angle, however, Politico was more effusive:
Yet many constituents have been alienated by her comments about Israel. Omar has been accused of anti-Semitism after suggesting support for Israel was popular due to campaign donations, that pro-Israel lawmakers had dual allegiance to both the U.S. and Israel and Israel had “hypnotized the world.” 
“Rep. Omar's past comments invoked age-old anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric that echoed and brought about the nightmares of persecution,” said Rabbi Avi Olitzky, who leads a congregation in the district.
I realize criticism of Israel means anti-Semitism to wingnut chuckleheads, but news organizations ought to have higher standards. The "donations" bit is apparently about her "all about the Benjamins" comment -- as described in yet another Politico story: "Omar tweeted, 'It's all about the Benjamins baby,' followed by a music emoji, which suggested that [AIPAC] money was calling the tune for [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy." Politico apparently wasn't listening to rap music in 1997. (And boy, saying a political action committee uses money to influence votes -- that's what Hitler did.)

The "dual allegiance" thing seems to refer to this tsimmis in which Omar remarked on (apparently) Republicans who "push for allegiance to a foreign country," which admittedly is a weird way to describe the GOP's Israel policy, which is only corrupt in the ordinary Republican way, and for which she apologized.

Politico kept it up through Monday -- "Ilhan Omar’s career on the line in tough primary" -- even giving the impression that the whole Squad was hanging on by their fingernails:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez survived her primary. Rashida Tlaib did, too. Now it’s Ilhan Omar’s turn on Tuesday — and the Minnesota congresswoman faces the stiffest challenge of any member of the Squad.
"Survived," did they? Let's look at the results -- Tlaib won 66%-34% and AOC won with 75% of the vote. Well, that was a near thing!

Politico continued:
Omar (D-Minn.), one of the group’s four liberal women of color who were first elected in 2018, has drawn national attention with her repeated clashes with President Donald Trump — as well as accusations of using anti-Semitic tropes in articulating her position on Israel.
Punchline: Omar kicked ass in her primary. "Omar led by about 17 points when The Associated Press called the primary for the safe Democratic seat," reported Politico.

We hear a lot about "horserace" political journalism, and how reporters try to make every race look like a photo finish to keep readers fascinated. That's certainly true, but in many cases, and I think this is certainly one, it's an artifact of the conservative noise machine that's been yelling "bias" for decades now, causing nervous news orgs to bend over backwards to portray even their stupidest shit as something to be taken seriously.

So since Republicans scream anti-Semite every time they see a Muslim, and have an extra-special hate-on for the attractive young hijab-wearing Somali-American -- remember their eruption over "some people did something," including Bret Stephens' absurd misreading? --  political journos are compelled to portray the district that elected Omar in the first place as they might Fritters, Alabama, and talk about any race involving outspoken liberals, no matter how well-entrenched, as competitive -- something you never see them do in reboubts where Republicans only run against Even More Republicans. Hell, they hardly gave O'Rourke-Cruz 2018 that kind of play, and Cruz won by less than three percent!

Maybe this will change as more QAnon crackpots win Republican primaries -- though given their track record I imagine this will just shift their Overton Window so that Pizzagate Pedonuts represent Principled Conservatism, currently mainstream Republicans (including the most rabid Trumpkins) are moderates, mainstream Democrats are communists, and people like the barely-"surviving," "polarizing" Squad are just de trop. 

Friday, August 07, 2020

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.

 
 
Never a bad time for this. 
(Really missing the old town today.)

 •   Unlocked today's Roy Edroso Breaks It Down issue for the general public; it's the first-person narrative of a Concerned Citizen who realizes Trump is destroying the country but doesn't know about this Biden guy. As a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016 and 2020 I yield to no one in my contempt of weakshit trimmer libs, but like Sanders (and Angela Davis and Noam Chomsky) I also realize that the current administration is a gang of vandals that has to be stopped and our ballot is the only puny weapon we have with any hope of succeeding against them.

My bagatelle is inspired by a recent wave of similar first-person narratives that are, apparently and amazingly, not meant as jokes. Take S.E. Cupp's "My vote for Biden hinges on his veep pick," which actually contains the line, "we’d be remiss not to consider that whomever [Biden] chooses could be running the country without being elected to do so." I know civics education in this country is terrible, but I do recall seeing the names of vice-presidential candidates on presidential ballots, and suspect that awareness of presidential succession law is pretty near universal. Cupp, whom I first saw doing a Tea Party event in Manhattan in 2009 (before she adopted the Google Blonde Conservative Glasses look to get on TV), describes herself as a "staunch conservative" and also as a "moderate," which will give you a pretty good idea of her sincerity here, and claims "I wish there were an actual conservative to vote for — someone who respects the Constitution, the rule of law, fiscal responsibility, national security interests, free speech and a free press," rather than the communist wrecker Joe Biden and whatever scary lady he hires to be the brains of the outfit. (Cupp says she'd be fine with Kamala Harris, and I predict she'd start with the ooga-booga about three days after Harris is announced.) 

Also on the fake reasonableness tip is, who else, Matt Lewis, who announces himself an "outspoken Never Trump conservative" which is in Roget's under "full of shit." (Longtime alicublog readers will already know this about Lewis.) He claims to have entertained voting for Biden, but decided against it: 

Let’s start with my visible (if only in an ultrasound) reason: the unborn child...

Now you, me, and everyone with two brain cells to rub together knows that serious anti-abortion people -- especially those who, like Lewis, say things like "call it a fetus if you like" and "abortion, though, is a moral issue" that "cannot be easily brushed away or bargained over as a lesser-of-two-evils decision" -- are extremely unlikely to vote for any Democrat. But Biden's been pro-Roe since 2007 at least -- why was Lewis even pretending to consider voting for this baby-killer? Apparently his NeverTrumpism made it worthwhile to him -- until he learned Biden had changed his mind on the Hyde Amendment! It was okay that he was a baby killer, but letting poor women kill their babies is a bridge too far! Plus which:

This brings us to the other (unseen) reason Biden’s newfound abortion stance matters: the notion that Biden is susceptible to being pushed leftward.

Not just a baby-killer, but a someone who might move left! On what, Lewis doesn't say; the only issues besides abortion he mentions are fracking and taxes, and he basically says he doesn't care that much about them. So, the big story is "pro-lifer won't vote for Democrat." But with a marquee byline! 

Friday, July 31, 2020

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.



It was 1973 and they wanted Johnny Mathis to be Relevant, dig!
But he's still Johnny Mathis and he sounds great.

•   As a treat for non-subscribers to Roy Edroso Breaks It Down, I'm unlocking two recent items: One that shows where the recent aggressive Trump donor solicitation emails are headed, and another that shows the President visiting a sick friend. Enjoy, if mordantly!

•   You have probably seen at least a few of the literally hundreds of videos of police kettling, beating, and generally shitting on the rights of protestors this summer. And of course what kicked off the protests were videos of cops doing extrajudicial torture and murders of black people. But Megan McArdle says appearances can be deceiving -- remember that dress on Twitter, where people disagreed what color it was? And what about optical illusions, "which simultaneously expose our brain’s hidden subsystems and their mistakes"? And a perceptual study that showed viewers two versions of a video and found -- get this -- "it didn’t matter which video you saw as much as whether your politics agreed with the protesters"? Bet that never occurred to you before.

No, McArdle's not saying the bad stuff didn't happen to the black people and the protestors -- LOL why would you think that, God, people are so negative, this is just, you know, in general -- like hey did you see the one where the cop got hit? After smacking down a protestor, yes, but maybe you didn't get the whole picture:
I saw it via GQ’s Julia Ioffe, who tweeted, “This isn’t the police keeping the peace. This is them treating their fellow citizens as enemy combatants.” Many replies echoed the sentiment. Others saw, with equal conviction, police responding with restraint after being physically attacked. 
Neither was wrong about what was in the video: A police officer was attacked, American citizens were manhandled. But all anyone saw was the element that had commanded their attention — and that was whatever fit the story they were already telling about violent protests or police brutality.
Similarly, the video of a cop smacking 75-year-old Martin Gugino to the pavement and cracking his skull -- was that police overreach, or some commie bastard getting what he deserved? It all depends on your POV.
But because video contains so much rich visual information, we tend to feel as if we’re there instead of receiving a highly selective retelling. That makes video seem more authoritative than other mediums... we still need to remember that what we’re seeing is in some sense an illusion, stripped of vital context by the narrow funnel of a camera lens — and that there can be giant holes in how we integrate what we do see into the rest of what we know.
McArdle clearly hopes you think about that the next time you see a controversial protest video -- which is probably going to be protestors getting beaten up by cops rather than vice-versa. Maybe this will join all the other similar videos you've seen in your consciousness to override, as it has for many Americans, a lifetime of conditioning that once had you reflexively siding with the cops -- but if you remind yourself "It could be a optical illusion, there was a study," maybe you'll return to your original, pre-video feelings about law and order.

•   At National Review, Jim Geraghty has a big pitch:
It’s Time for Conservatives to Take the New Coronavirus Outbreak Seriously
Normally Gergahty's COVID-19 shtick is trying to prove protesters caused the outbreaks. He does a bit of that here, too, but mainly, now that Republican states are starting to experience significant infection and death rates, he wants to get a pro-mask message across to the people his fellow conservatives have been telling for months not to worry because it's all a fraud that a little hydroxychloroquine will fix right up.

Geraghty settles on that now-common refuge of a wingnut, "reader" "mail." In this case a "reader who is the director of medical research for a top-ten hospital" is delivering the social distancing sermon with a conservative spin:
“Conservatives, we need to talk,” he begins. “I know you’re tired of masks; tired of the restrictions on going to bars, going to the gym, going to church. We’re all tired of it. You’re worried about whether your business will survive more months of restrictions. And above all, you’re furious at the double standards exhibited by Democratic politicians and their media allies; when they invoke holy ‘Science!’ to take away your liberty and then turn around and say ‘nothing to worry about here’ when crowds of thousands gather in cities protesting and rioting.” 
This research director is also irritated with his fellow scientists, “especially the ones who are eager to curry the favor of TV producers and Sunday-show pundits, and of governors and mayors, and so will tailor their conclusions to meet the narrative and talking points of the day." 
But he sees what he characterizes as a growing number of people on the right, even “people associated with establishment organizations and otherwise thoughtful and sensible commentary” who are “reacting to the Left’s effort to turn the pandemic into a political weapon by swinging to the opposite extreme.”
I guess the idea is, if he sticks enough slurs on liberals in there, the dummies who've been saying it's all a liberal hoax and are meeting up maskless in nightclubs and bars will believe him. Well, Dr. Frankenstein didn't think his plan through, either.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

HIPSTERS DONE STOLE-OR-BULLIED MAH YARD SIGN!

Shortly after his last effulgence of fame as the guy The Atlantic hired and then fired when they found out he advocated execution for women who had abortions, Kevin D. Williamson returned to National Review, where he has been honing his performatively nasty style. This week he's applying his method to a couple of rightwing classics. For one, there's the Sissy Liberals Who Are Askeered to Live With Black People. I've had this shtick pulled on me in the past: A troll once asked me why I didn't live with black people if I liked them so much. I was living at the time in Harlem and told him so, whereupon he immediately responded, "Why don't you go live in East New York." If I went to East New York I expect he would have demanded I move to the Central African Republic. Anyway, here's Williamson:
As I have mentioned before, I live in a pretty assertively lefty neighborhood (big cities in Texas are a lot like big cities in the rest of the country) surrounded by diehards who are not going to take the “Beto for Senate” stickers off their Audis. (Forgive me for quoting myself: “We admire our neighborhood for its diversity: There are white people with Audis, black people with Audis, Latino people with Audis, Asian people with Audis, gay people with Audis . . .”) But they are mostly nice people, and we rarely talk about politics. Sure, all that “Black Lives Matter” paraphernalia does sometimes give one the sneaking suspicion that these nice white progressives are trying very, very hard to elide the fact that they all live north of the street that forms a socioeconomic Berlin Wall between our neighborhood and the poor and largely non-white one to the south, that they’re all over here with the nice restaurants with vegan options and the new coffee shop and the National Review guy rather than a few blocks away with The People.
You have to wonder: Are the Audi-driving black people in Williamson's and the liberals' neighborhood also supposed to feel bad that they're not living in the really black part of town? Or maybe it's a Mexican neighborhood, or an Asian one  -- you'd think he'd tell us, so that his black and white neighbors could know before whom to abase themselves.

Come to think of it, why isn't Williamson living in that neighborhood, if he has such contempt for liberals who don't (and, it would seem, nearly all of his current neighbors)? I guess when he avoids it, it's on principled conservative grounds, like the Right of Free Association, whereas when liberals do it it's hypocrisy.

Williamson also does the one about the goddamn liberals who are sissies -- "eye-rolling dopes spilling a fair-trade almond-milk latte on my Kentucky 31" (Williamson names his grasses, that's how butch he is!) -- yet somehow also capable of bullying a Trump supporter. Williamson makes a point of showing us how tough he is, personally, at least in patter:
Random bearded hipster pedestrians passing by pointed out my neighbors’ Trump flag to denounce it. With my mouth I said, “People like what they like,” and with my heart I said, “Keep walking, hippie, and don’t slow down.”
Maybe I should have said "in patter in his heart, such as it is." Anyway, there was also a Trump sign on one of the local lawns that later vanished: "I do not know what happened to it, but it is gone," Williamson testifies. Then the aforementioned Trump flag disappeared. The evidence is clear to Williamson: "I assume somebody stole the flag or that the neighbors were bullied into taking it down."

Assume? You'd think a John Wayne type of guy like Williamson would saunter up to the Trump houses, knock on their doors and ask these salt-of-the-earthers if them-there he-shes and simps was givin' 'em any trouble and cancel-culturin' them into takin' down their Trump tat. But Williamson says:
(I haven’t had a chance to ask and haven’t really gone looking for one. Good emotional fences make good neighbors.) 
I guess the only way to keep the liberals' mind-rays from making one betray one's principles, yard-sign-wise, is by refusing to talk to them. Thereafter he gives us a lecture on neighborliness and anti-racism and ugh.

It just occurred to me what this reminded me of: Victor Davis Hanson's stolen chainsaw and the liberals he blamed for it! He and Williamson are kindred spirits.

Friday, July 24, 2020

FRIDAY ROUND-THE-HORN.



Hey, who finally told me abut The Beths?
I want to thank them.

•  David Brooks blubbers again! This week it's about how the mean elitist liberals oppress ruff-tuff conservative he-men such as himself and his buddies.

First, to get it out of the way fast so no one can say he ignored it:
Like other realms, American intellectual life has been marked by a series of exclusions. The oldest and vastest was the exclusion of people of color from the commanding institutions of our culture.
[To be heard in an extremely bored voice and Brooks doing the jerk-off motion.]
Today, there’s the exclusion of conservatives from academic life. Then there’s the exclusion of working-class voices from mainstream media.
Brooks always conflates conservatives with the working class because he came up in an era in which hardhat-and-lunchbucket Joes loved pampered movie star Ronald Reagan, and he thinks it's the natural order of things. (Donald Trump even more preposterously pulling the same hardhat bullshit seems not to have enlightened him as to this racket.) Hence, Brooks' comical 2018 dialogue between "Urban Guy," who sounded like David Brooks pretending to be a snooty liberal, and "Flyover Man," who sounded like David Brooks after a few cocktails and a Glenn Ford movie.
Our profession didn’t used to be all coastal yuppies, but now it mostly is. Then there’s the marginalization of those with radical critiques — from say, the Marxist left and the theological right.
Tell me with a straight face Brooks is sad there are no Marxists on the editorial pages of the Times or the Washington Post. (As for the "theological right," there is no point in running editorials for people who only read the Holy Bible and Chick tracts and think compound sentences are tools of the Devil.) In a truly diverse editorial environment, Brooks would have been crushed into gravel like a five-year-old blundering into a rugby scrum.

And here we get to the real crime in Brooks' eyes: Because they were denied their rightful place in the cultural firmament, conservatives decided they would rather reign in Hell than be cancelled in Heaven:
Conservatives were told their voices didn’t matter, and many reacted in a childish way that seemed to justify that exclusion. A corrosive spirit of resentment and victimhood spread across the American right — an intellectual inferiority complex combined with a moral superiority complex.
For many on the right the purpose of thinking changed. Thinking was no longer for understanding. Thinking was for belonging. Right-wing talk radio is the endless repetition off familiar mantras to reassure listeners that they are all on the same team. Thinking was for conquest: Those liberals think they’re better than us, but we own the libs.
I feel like crying, really -- how could we do this to poor, neglected Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh? They must be rehabilitated with even more attention and riches!

Coddled liberals, on the other hand, are in Brooks' view "blindsided by reality" -- LOL Trump won get over it libs! -- and are all about "fragility," "conformity," and "predictability." Shoot a few rounds of tear gas at middle-aged female protesters and they all act like it's some big thing! [Eyeroll] So expected.

Everyone's focused on this howler:
Christopher Hitchens was one of the great essayists in America. He would be unemployable today because there was no set of priors he wasn’t willing to offend.
Hitchens of course was promoted from Very Limited Use Mortifier of Rightwing Idiots to Major Media Sensation when he decided Bush was right and the wogs needed a damned sound thrashing. That's what made him Mr, Contrarian! I guarantee you that, if Trump announces an October Surprise War on Iran, some other climber will get that same gig. I hear Brooks has been rehearsing his Flyover Man voice in quarantine! (I warn you now, if Thomas Chatterton Williams gets the role expect a lot of Brooks columns on affirmative action.)

But the really funny stuff, to me, is, number one, his examples of brave intellectuals on Substack -- he ignores me, naturally, as well as the actual great journalists like Judd Legum and Luke O'Neil on Substack and focuses on rightwing journos who are bringing their followings to the platform, including Andrew Sullivan and, get this, Jonah Goldberg. (Oh, and he throws in Matt Taibbi for roughage. Maybe he can be the new Hitchens!) And there's this truly extraordinary button:
I’m hoping the definition of a pundit changes — not a foot soldier out for power, but a person who argues in order to come closer to understanding.
This would be funny coming from anyone but from a Times conservative legacy hire who got his job in the interests of perceived bothsider "balance" it's fucking hilarious.

•  And as long as we're talking about the newsletter, here's some access for non-subscribers to a few recent editions: This one about why conservatives are so committed to making everything worse, and this one depicting a meeting of America's top cancel-cultists. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

AN OLDIE BUT A TERRIBLY.

I guess it's time to revive one of my classics:
SHORTER CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT 1994: 
"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."
HAW HAW HAW! AW HAW HAW HAW HAW! Thassa good one! Yee-haaa! 
SHORTER CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT 2020:
"I'm from the government, and I'm here to invade your city with secret police despite the express wishes of your citizens and their government, and tear gas your mayor and your mothers." 
That sounds reasonable.
In short, they're Nazis. Whoever gets elected Vice-President with Biden should give the new president a nerve-pinch immediately after the inauguration and get busy sending all these scumbags to Den Haag.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

GOON SQUAD GOALS.

If it's bullshit you want, what could be a more reliable source than a Washington Examiner "Homeland Security Reporter"? Anna Giaritelli reports from the wingnut pennysaver:
Amid weeks of nightly attempts to destroy a federal courthouse in downtown Portland, the bigger clash between the Trump administration and local city officials is overshadowing the initial issue of restoring peace in the Oregon city.
Giaritelli supports this "destroy a federal courthouse" claim with a link to her previous reporting, which documents no serious threat to the structural integrity of the limestone and steel building, but does contain sentences such as "The protests continued Sunday night as a couch outside the courthouse was torched."
Portland’s Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler has accused the Department of Homeland Security of overstepping its authority by sending in dozens of federal agents and officers amid the riots. The DHS employees have been observed seemingly arresting random people on the street and using tear gas to disperse people outside the Hatfield federal courthouse.
"Seemingly" is an interesting choice, as is the use of "observed" for "recorded for the world to see and admitted by the feds."
DHS data provided exclusively to the Washington Examiner...
LOL
...revealed 20 people have been arrested by federal law enforcement in Portland this month for attacking personnel or the courthouse itself. Several federal law enforcement officials have been injured guarding the building, according to a senior administration official. Wheeler claims DHS is overstepping his jurisdiction’s authority and going after protesters, but three administration officials working on the issue told the Washington Examiner that the arrests were legal.
Said they were legal, did they? I can understand taking the Trump Administration's word for all this, given its record of transparency.
While countless people peacefully protested the death of George Floyd in late May, protests in Portland were taken over by fringe groups seeking to overthrow the U.S. political system, including by decimating different types of statues and buildings. 
I'm trying to think of a building that's been decimated by protestors. Any ideas? Also, while I've seen statues either torn down or graffitied, I haven't seen any of those decimated either.

The bullshit and howlers ("In one instance, an agitator who pointed a laser into a federal officer's eyes was tracked down and then snatched from the street later that night") roll on from there. They are not meant to inform, certainly, nor to persuade intelligent observers in good faith, but to give cover to rightwing yahoos who wish to portray these invasions that have been rejected by the citizens and leaders of the invaded cities as good ol' law-n-order rather than fascism.