Friday, December 14, 2018

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


Some singers, trying to stay on beat, sound like they're rushing this lyric. 
Not her. 25 years old and totally in charge. RIP.

•  The idea of Jared Kushner as a potential Chief of Staff is so hilarious to me that I am moved to release to non-subscribers two of my recent newsletter issues that feature the big cluck in dramatic colloquy with the President:
"Disappointed Office Seeker": From last week, in which Jared is in distress because Dad sent that blond chick with big tits to the U.N. instead of him; 
"A CoS Line": From today! Jared auditions for the newly vacant role.
I'm prejudiced, but I think these little playlets are pretty funny, plus they have swears. (P.S. If you're stuck for Xmas ideas, my newsletter is cheap and easy to gift!)

•  If you're in the business, you're not supposed to cheer when a magazine closes, and I'm not such a prick that I would laugh at the loss of jobs or even the silencing of the Weekly Standard writers whom I unfailingly found to be idiots* -- even though I have to say now-former Standard film critic John Podhoretz makes it hard not to laugh with his j'accuse against the management, which actually contains the line "That sounds pompous, and I hate sounding pompous, but it’s true." Also funny:
This approach was an immediate success. The Standard was the only successful high-end magazine launch of its time and, I believe, the last important print magazine created in America before the Internet began its search-and-destroy mission against those things published on the pulp products of dead trees.
To be sure, it has never made money.
Maybe you have to have spent your entire life in the for-profit capitalist rat race, as I and most Americans have done, to get the joke. Oh, and Podhoretz's l'envoi as a critic is pretty awful too, but provokes more wuts that lolwuts. Sample: "Out of Africa was perhaps the ur-version of The Beautifully Constructed Big-Budget Middlebrow Picture Made by a Major Studio That Takes on Serious Topics." Podhoretz is the only Jewish cinephile who has never heard of Gentleman's Agreement, apparently. The rest is even worse. So I wouldn't say good riddance -- the worst of this lot will certainly be picked up by other wingnut welfare makework projects anyway; I will instead say thanks for the gift of laughter.

*Addendum: I just realized that Terry Teachout wrote for the Standard, too -- so they weren't all idiots. Here's his last piece for the magazine, like everything he writes thoughtful, well-said and worth your time. He still has his regular gig at the Wall Street Journal if you want to keep up with him.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

BITCHFINDER GENERAL.

Ross Douthat is here to run theocon Routine 12 on us -- that you heathens who don't go to his Church are not the free-thinkers you think you are, for you are merely worshiping the Golden Calf of penicillin, soap and toothpaste rather than his True God. At the top he pretends to wonder whether we've all really gone secular rather than alt-religious, and seems to dismiss the idea, because everybody needs a creed:
But the secularization narrative is insufficient, because even with America’s churches in decline, the religious impulse has hardly disappeared. In the early 2000s, over 40 percent of Americans answered with an emphatic “yes” when Gallup asked them if “a profound religious experience or awakening” had redirected their lives; that number had doubled since the 1960s, when institutional religion was more vigorous.
I have not been to an Ivy, but feel nonetheless I can explain: "when institutional religion was more vigorous" you didn't talk about having “a profound religious experience or awakening” because people would think you'd gone nuts. But once Americans started to take more drugs, travel more by camper van, and generally loosen up their sphincters, you had people describing their acid trips or bungee jumps as religious rather than sensual experiences. That did not mean they now considered rubber ropes or purple barrel to be sacraments of a New Church -- they merely had no better language to describe their experiences.  I mean if these hippie effusions were actually religious, Burning Man would have catacombs by now.

Still, Douthat thinks that at least some of the unchurched have drifted into a new pagan religions, and you will know them by their eccentric behaviors:
...ritual and observance, augury and prayer, that do promise that in some form gods or spirits really might exist and might offer succor or help if appropriately invoked. I have in mind the countless New Age practices that promise health and well-being and good fortune, the psychics and mediums who promise communication with the spirit world, and also the world of explicit neo-paganism, Wiccan and otherwise. 
Sounds like someone just got back from the Ren Faire, or Santa Fe! But why should he, I, or anyone care if some sliver of the godless go in for Tarot and Enya? Ahh, but danger and darkness for us all lie in these heresies! Hear Douthat say the sooth:
To get a fully revived paganism in contemporary America... the philosophers of pantheism and civil religion would need to build a religious bridge to the New Agers and neo-pagans, and together they would need to create a more fully realized cult of the immanent divine, an actual way to worship, not just to appreciate, the pantheistic order they discern.
It seems like we’re some distance from that happening — from the intellectuals whom [Steven D.] Smith describes as pagan actually donning druidic robes, or from Jeff Bezos playing pontifex maximus for a post-Christian civic cult. 
You assume, or at least hope, that Douthat finds these images as ridiculous as you do -- but then:
The 1970s, when a D.C. establishment figure like Sally Quinn was hexing her enemies, were a high-water mark for those kinds of experiments among elites. 
Maybe they don't have editors at the Times anymore -- I shouldn't wonder -- but why didn't anyone ask Douthat what evidence he had that Sally Quinn's voodoo dolls were not just proof that Sally Quinn is a daffy as hell old rich lady, but also part of real Satanic activity among the elites? Who else was working the Ouija boards and magic wands? And has it only gotten worse? Maybe after a couple of queries Douthat would have cracked and cried out PIZZAGATE IS REAL!
Now, occasional experiments in woke witchcraft and astrology notwithstanding, there’s a more elite embarrassment about the popular side of post-Christian spirituality. 
That embarrassment may not last forever; perhaps a prophet of a new harmonized paganism is waiting in the wings. 
SOOOOOOROOOOOOOS
Until then, those of us who still believe in a divine that made the universe rather than just pervading it — and who have a certain fear of what more immanent spirits have to offer us — should be able to recognize the outlines of a possible successor to our world-picture, while taking comfort that it is not yet fully formed.
The words "certain fear" link to a story about exorcism. Wait -- now I get it -- Douthat finally saw The Exorcist! And he knows that poor little girl wasn't randomly chosen by Pazuzu -- he was guided to her by Sally Quinn and her Georgetown coven! Who knows what other black mischief these harpies have summoned -- why, theirs may be the force that invaded and ruined the Republican Party, causing it to reject Douthat's neo-communitarian ideas and turn into the Trump mob! Finally, an explanation that makes sense!

If you see Douthat outside Comet Ping Pong with a long parcel, call the cops.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

HEAP BIG BULLSHIT.

It is sometimes observed that conservatives' only real principle is racism. That depends, I say: is looting the public treasury for one's donors a principle? It's a real chicken-and-egg thing, as I was reminded by Howie Carr's latest attack on Elizabeth Warren at the Boston Herald:
Smoke signals say Elizabeth Warren’s presidential dreams are over
Just in case you think this might be some disgruntled editor's prank:
It was just a few weeks ago that the fake Indian sanctimoniously released the results of her alleged DNA test. She thought it was going to be the greatest triumph of Indian arms since the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Within hours, though, her political career had taken a worse pounding than the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend or the Sioux at Wounded Knee... 
Sometimes the Times prints fake news. That was not fake news. I have indeed enjoyed – relished, actually – holding “the DNA issue” over the fake Indian’s war bonnet.
This has been a wingnut talking point since Warren's successful 2012 Senatorial campaign, and they haven't learned a new trick since.

I'm not outraged that Carr is still using this ugh how woo-woo-woo shit throughout his column ("But it’s too late for that – many moons too late"); I'm just confused as to the target audience and intended effect. The median U.S. voter age is 47.5, which suggests very few 2018 voters will have grown up with The Lone Ranger. Some of us may have enjoyed the antics of the Hekawi on F Troop as children but, for reasons that have maybe a little to do with wokeness but certainly have everything to do with elementary good manners, don't think this kind of shit is cool.

What makes it even weirder is Carr's pretense that he finds something gravely offensive about Warren getting and publicizing her DNA test and thus "stealing somebody else’s heritage." Does anyone on God's green earth think people who find Photoshopping a feathered headdress on Warren's head hilarious give a shit what Native Americans think?

The only strategic sense I can see in this is that Carr and his cronies get plenty of support from two sources; first, clueless dopes in the mainstream media desperate to look sensitive -- such as (you knew it had to be) the New York Times, which in October ran several thoughtful and polite comments by Natives about how tribal identity is not the same thing as a genetic trait under the ridiculous headline "Why Many Native Americans Are Angry With Elizabeth Warren."

The other source of support they can count on is rightwing fake-woke trolls on social media who also act like they care about identity and appropriation but only use that affectation to attack liberals. A quick look at their feeds usually reveals this to be the case, but most people aren't going to bother:


I mean:

This elaborate fraud will probably work on the press, but maybe normal people have seen too much of this shit to buy it anymore and will in any case be glad someone like Warren who has actually tried to give them a break against the corporations is running. As to the racism vs. cynicism-in-defense-of-corporate-donors question, I see no reason why it can't be both.

Friday, December 07, 2018

FRIDAY AROUND-THE-HORN.



He was good solo, too. RIP.

•  I know it's been quiet here at the old homstead and I do apologize. I've been busy. The Goddamned Job, like just about everyone's Goddamned Job in this low, mean era, ever increases my workload. (This week I was actually sent to a conference. And these people know I'm anti-social! I think they're trying to break me.) Plus which I have had to devote the greater share of my writing time to my paid newsletter, Roy Edroso Breaks It Down. Like Little Boy Blue, I need the money, especially since the Voice shut down. So if you like quantity with your quality, pitch seven bucks a month into my upturned newsboy cap and I'll make it rain -- with the tears of our enemies!

•  If Antifa were involved in direct actions that killed several people, you would see the usual suspects screaming bloody murder about The Violent Left. But at National Review Michael Brendan Dougherty looks at the Paris gas price riots and declares,
Finally, France has a bona fide working-class riot. Rather than the usual, a riot of bourgeois students on behalf of a notional working class.
These people aren't hippies -- it's all good! White riot, I wanna riot, white riot, a riot of my own!
We live in odd times, when many conservatives see working-class people pitching a riot in France and instinctively sympathize with them.
One of those many is evidently Dougherty, who is crafty enough that instead of crying "Helter Skelter, off the pigs," he just suggests the stodgy stand-pat liberals have it coming:
And at the same time, many liberals are tempted to defend the political leader who started the uproar with the imposition of a regressive tax, and who finds his primary support among financial workers in London and the establishment at home.
There's more at work here than riot envy, though. Dougherty refers to the European wave of "populism that combines the grievances out on the peripheries of left and right and advances them against the liberal center." That's great if you're a conservative who doesn't mind playing both ends against the middle -- like the Koch playthings whose idea of free speech advocacy is sending nuts like Milo Yiannopoulos to stir the shit on campus, then acting aggrieved when shit starts to fly. The idea is, after the clash of the KPD and the Nazis -- I mean, the "peripheries of left and right" -- the responsible parties will clean up! This time for sure.

•  I haven't said much about the George Herbert Walker Bush memorials, which have been multiple and ridiculous -- here, for an example let me unlock a newsletter item on the dumb Douthat one -- but I will note that I am gratified by the pushback by folks like Erik Loomis, Joshua Clark Davis, Steven Thrasher, Amanda Marcotte, Corey Robin, et alia. GHWB is painted a "moderate" because he talked about points of light and did the awful things Republicans have been doing since Nixon in a clean-cuffed patrician manner rather than crudely and Trumply. But he sucked. He was a warmonger and a racist who pushed a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw flag-burning, invaded client states and tried to make it look idealistic, and saddled us with Clarence Thomas. And it's nothing but a good thing that at least some people are hearing, perhaps for the first time, the rest of the story.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

THE LATEST IN RIGHT WING VICTIM STATUS SEEKING.

I have often asked why conservatives are always blubbering that "the left" controls "the universities," when Bob Jones and Liberty U and Pepperdine and the University of Chicago economics department and The King's College (D'Souza approved!) and many other rightwing institutions of higher learning are sitting right there, willing to indoctrinate their kids the way they want them indoctrinated. My cleverly-disguised suspicion has been that these crybabies are credentials-conscious and want Yale, Harvard, etc. to turn wingnut, so they can at last have children possessing both the fancy branded sheepskins and the faith of their fathers (i.e. tax breaks for the wealthy and persecution of minorities).

At The American Spectator Daniel McCarthy works that whinge: He laments that "Pew has reported that Americans with higher levels of education have an increasingly pronounced tilt toward the Democratic party" -- which he doesn't take to mean that the more educated you get the less conservative you become, but that higher ed is fixed, like wrestling, with wingnuts cast as the heels:
The trouble with this, for Republicans and cultural conservatives both, is that even success at the ballot box will not check the consolidation of left-wing social power. The opinion elite, educators and the media, shape the environment in which business takes place, and in which business people themselves are formed. Cultural conservatives can home school, they can send their children to Hillsdale or Christendom or Grove City College — but where will they work when they graduate? Even pizza companies must follow the unwritten laws laid down by the opinion police.
I'm trying to imagine the manager of a Papa John's telling some kid, "Your resume is very impressive, son, but I'm afraid your Goucher College degree indicates a level of wrongthink that we cannot tolerate here at Papa John's. What if Bernie Sanders were to come in for a Chicken Margherita?"

Not to mention that pizza companies are a weird choice of example when such companies tend to be owned by right-wingers. (Maybe liberals should trawl for victim points by claiming they can't get jobs as deliverymen.)

But that to one side: What the hell is he talking about? I read most of the Weeping Wingnut Victim-Status Claims that come over the transom and can't call to mind one that, even on the tendentious terms of the genre, suggested that college graduates can't get hired because they're conservative, and must take what menial jobs they can find on the black market and live in a van by the river. Maybe they've been yelling about media bias for so long, they conclude that CBS' failure to put Alex Jones in an anchor slot means there's a national prohibition against employing Republicans.

McCarthy is also sad that some corporations give contributions to Democrats, because "even the welfarist and regulatory policies they prefer today are not too alarming to the most powerful segments of the business community." Well, we're working on it, buddy!

Paranoid as the whole thesis is, there's a whopper hidden in this corner of McCarthy's conclusion:
The Tea Party and Trump succeeded at least in channeling the great popular anger at the new insider left, but the deplorable Americans on whom they’ve relied are scheduled for extinction by opioids and economic euthanasia.
Economic euthanasia? But I thought Trump was bringing jobs, jobs, jobs to the Deplorables, and that the recent large job cuts by companies his tax cuts have lavishly rewarded, like General Motors -- and Nationwide, and Under Armour, and Qualcomm, and Xerox, etc. -- are just bumps in the road that will be made smooth by Trump's incoherent yelling. I'd love to know how Democrats, who have been totally out of power for two years, are impoverishing these poor souls. (The opioid overdoses I assume McCarthy attributes to us because we're all into drugs.) Maybe the answer is subtextual: that conservatives and their policies are actually killing their own supporters, leaving champions of the cause to try and deflect the blame onto the liberal boogiemen they set up decades ago. I begin to get the idea that the conservative problem with education actually starts at the cognitive level.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

THE TURKEY'S RIGHT WING.

Usually the holiday that coaxes the most comedy from conservatives is Martin Luther King Day, but in this Year of Our Trump 2018, when noble sentiments ring more hollow than usual, rightwing Thanksgiving is pretty funny too. At National Review Kevin D. Williamson -- whose embittered second tenure at the magazine I recently covered in the newsletter (subscribe now, for yourself or your friends, makes a great gift item!) -- bids us give thanks to capitalism and no thanks to stupid SJWs:
There is a part of the Christian tradition that relates charitable giving to the Seventh Commandment, which is the prohibition on theft. The idea is that the world and all that it contains are God’s gift to corporate mankind — “the universal destination of goods,” in theological jargon — so that the man with two coats holds one of them unjustly when his neighbor shivers in the cold with no coat at all. Private property, in this understanding, is instrumental in promoting the common good, but it does not supersede the primordial gift.
There is great grace and goodness and wisdom in that. But it simply assumes the existence of coats and coat factories, the vast and incomprehensibly complex apparatus of coat-production that incorporates materials, effort, and intelligence from people all over the world...
You see where he's going and yes, there is an actual "thought experiment" along teach-a-man-to-fish lines, except with no teaching because capitalism Knows All: instead of giving the freezing man a coat like a fucking hippie, you imagine "you have ten thousand coats" because like all wingnut heroes you are rich (they used to count military personnel as heroes too but the right's not into that these days), so you invest those coats and presto, farms and factories spring up and your neighbor "is no longer too poor to buy his own coat" -- except of course we are actually living out Williamson's Capitalist Dream today and the results are observably very different: people still need free coats, not as potential investments but because despite the general plenty our great economic system somehow still finds ways to immiserate the poor and deny them the very basics of survival.

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, Williamson then transitions to a skein of slurs on "nice intentions or sanctimonious sentiments," "Senator Warren denouncing the supposed excesses of capitalism and the so-called greed of those who do the actual work of feeding and clothing the world," "the desire of people who produce nothing to exercise power over people they hate and envy," etc. Happy fucking Thanksgiving, snarls Kevin D. Williamson, slamming the door in the beggar's face as he gnaws a drumstick, and get a job!

I'll say this for the miserable bastard: He knows his audience.

If you're into more slow-roiling rightwing rage, there's David French, also at NR, who starts with a nice, mostly anodyne Thanksgiving celebration -- shoot, he even speaks without rancor of "Friendsgiving," which you'd think a family-values type like him would denounce -- but then, about halfway down:
At the same time, however, Thanksgiving is gaining in national hearts in part because Christmas is receding. That’s a shame.
Whuh?
As a fundamental idea, celebrating the birth of the Savior of humanity, of the Word made flesh, the “light of all mankind,” is an event rivaled only by the celebration of His triumph over death in Resurrection weekend. Yet the very social transformation that makes Thanksgiving more unifying is rendering Christmas less universal, and sometimes more divisive.
Is French talking about the War of Christmas his buddies at Wingnut Central have been pushing for almost two decades? Or is there some plan to not celebrate Christmas this year, despite all outward appearances, that I don't know about?
After all, how does a specifically religious holiday endure when fewer Americans believe in the specific religion? According to the Pew Research Center, only 56 percent of Americans believe in the God of the Bible. So, for almost half of all Americans, Christmas truly is just another holiday — but it’s a burst of days off that carry with them some rather specific (and often quite expensive) obligations. Even for Christian Americans, while it carries the religious meaning, it’s also laden with secular tasks.
Wait -- French is complaining that Christmas has been secularized? My dude, where have you been for the past century? I've got some shit to tell you about the Coca-Cola Santa that will turn you white!
...Tomorrow we’ll gather as one nation — united in gratitude — but on Friday a season begins that means very different things to different people. 
OH NO!
The transition is a symbol of our country’s challenge. We are one national people increasingly comprising different faiths, or no faith at all. In any nation, a religious transformation is often a wrenching transformation. How we respond to that challenge will define our nation for generations.
He ends with a short , cheerful oh well, enjoy your feast pagans button, but judging from his other columns, French's way of "responding to the challenge" will probably be to call up a Fourth Great Awakening that will put godly Republicans in charge of everything and establish heaven here on Earth -- wait, what's that? You say they are in charge of everything and everything sucks? Well, Fifth time's the charm!

We're going out for dim sum. Enjoy your turkeys, friends, and I hope these two aren't the only ones you get.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

MORE LETTERS TO REPENTHOUSE.

Fans of Rod Dreher's "reader" "mail" (background here) will appreciate his latest:
A reader sent me the following e-mail, which I have edited a bit to protect her privacy, and the privacy of others mentioned here:
I wanted to bring this to your attention. My husband had a conversation with a young friend of ours who is a recent college grad. He has been working at [a major retailer] for the last year. I’m not sure what his title is, but we have encountered him at the store. He is a great worker and has earned a number of company awards for his performance. He related to my husband that he had had a conversation with a friend at work about the use or non-use of transgender pronouns. He took the position that he would not feel comfortable doing this.

He was later called into his manager’s office and reprimanded. The manager told him that someone had overheard his conversation (manager wouldn’t say who), and that he had made this person feel “unsafe”. Our friend was written up for this, transferred to another store a long distance away, and suffered other severe sanctions! He was a bit naive to have engaged in this conversation at work, but good grief!
What do you guys think really happened?
  1. Employee actually said "Trannies gross me out, what do you even call them, 'he' 'she' 'he-she' 'it,' I mean yuk, YEAH I'M TALKING ABOUT YOU 'SERENA'" or words to that effect.
  2. Reader ran into Employee who had been absent from the store for a long while and asked Employee what had happened; rather than admit he had been fired for stealing, and knowing from Reader's in-store rants that she was obsessed with trans people, Employee made up story that he knew would excite Reader, then hit her up for ten bucks.
  3. This story is bullshit from top to bottom.
The follow-up is also choice ("Yes, under communism, the slightest infraction was met with overwhelming punitive force... The reader goes on: 'I am currently reading “The Gulag Archipelago”, and there are some very obvious common threads..."), and ends on a very promising note:
I’m going to start a new category of blog posts: “The Woke Workplace”. Send me your accounts of political correctness run amok in your office. If you want me to edit any details out for privacy’s sake, say so
Start sharpening your pens, folks: "Dear Repenthouse, I never thought it would happen to me..."