Monday, June 18, 2018

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...on the North Korea scam and child prisoners of immigration control, among other subjects. The Nork thing was obviously designed, not to deliver any diplomatic or national security benefits, but solely to impress dummies, and there's something almost poignant about the clumsy defenses offered by those few remaining conservatives whose careers rely on Making It Look Good -- they seem already to belong to another time, back before every Republican became a MAGA choad incapable of absorbing any analysis not entirely flattering to their own Dear Leader.

The GOP is also being hustled down the road to Nuremberg by the brown-family-splitting policy: a new poll shows that, while Democrats and Independents are horrified, most Republicans approve of this nightmare. I see that Ann Coulter is tying it all together by calling the caged kids "child actors" -- which suggests that the old famehound has intuited that her and Trump's base are ready to buy the "crisis actor" conspiracy theories of the extreme right, which would put them very far beyond the reach of reason. It's a high-stakes game for sure: On the down side, this small group of crackpots may actually destroy American and Western Civ; on the upside, thanks to these revelations -- and also the weasel behavior of Republican "moderates" -- we at least know for certain where the virus (or as Charlie Pierce calls it, the prion disease) is isolated, and how voters may eradicate it.

Friday, June 15, 2018

FRIDAY 'ROUND-THE-HORN.


22 years, really?

• I see Commentary has put out a number baldly entitled, in 50s-social paintbrush typositor, "African Americans vs. American Jews," and it features an essay by Jamie (now "James" -- today he is a man!) Kirchick, as well as one by an actual black guy, Jason D. Hill, who has previously written for The Federalist "Loveless, Narcissistic Sex Addicts: A Gay Man Critiques His Community," so we can imagine what kind of a love letter his other community will be getting here. I'm getting too old for this shit so I doubt I'll read -- I know, maybe it's miraculously stupendous; nonetheless, at a certain point one has to play the odds -- but I am titillated by the reference in Hill's title to "My Negro Problem -- and Ours," written by Commentary's former editor, Norman Podhoretz, who is the father of Commentary's current editor. "Negro Problem" is awful (go find Marvin Mudrick's evisceration, not alas online, though Jeet Heer reproduces some of it here), but I prefer to recall N. Podhoretz's 2013 revisitation, "'My Negro Problem -- and Ours' at 50," in which he tells us how he came to write the thing, in conversation with James Baldwin. He was yelling at Baldwin for giving a story to The New Yorker rather than to Commentary notwithstanding, N. Podhoretz suggests, Commentary had commissioned it. Over a drink N. Podhoretz "let him have it with both barrels even after the minimal contrition he now showed" -- the first (I assume unintended by the author) sign that Baldwin was not only playing it cool with the hotheaded N. Podhoretz but genuinely could not give a shit, and had met with him just to see how much he would embarrass himself. This N. Podhoretz did in spades, per his own account, ranting about "my childhood encounters with black thugs of my own age" and how the solution to racial problems in America was not, as the Black Muslims had it, separation but "the opposite extreme: the wholesale merger of the two races through miscegenation." Then:
As I talked, Baldwin’s normally bulging eyes bulged and blazed even more fiercely than usual. “You ought,” he whispered as though participating in a conspiracy, “to write all that down.” It was important, more important than I realized, for such things to be said; and they had to be said in public. Thus it was that Baldwin repaid me for giving him the idea and the incentive for The Fire Next Time with the idea and the encouragement for “My Negro Problem—and Ours.”
N. Podhoretz seems never to have realized what a cruel practical joke Baldwin was playing on him, getting him to publish his ravings and ensuring that his reputation would be forever yoked to them. And, given that even in that 2013 essay N. Podhoretz was still frothing about the "almost complete abdication of black responsibility and the commensurately total dependence on government engendered by so obsessive and exclusive a fixation on white racism," it seems he never will.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

MASTERS OF THE BLUFF AND MASTERS OF THE PROPOSITION.

I know Tim Kaine is the kind of tryhard MOR liberal Democrat that makes us smart-alecks want to go all worser-the-better helter-skelter but holy shit as of last night’s primary he’s running against an actual Republican white supremacist:
In 2012 during his run for lieutenant governor, [Corey Stewart] bragged about Prince William County’s “crackdown” on undocumented immigrants via a 2007 law that required police to check the immigration status of anyone detained or arrested if there was “probable cause” that the person might not be a citizen…

And for Stewart, with Trump has come an all-out embrace of neo-Confederate viewpoints and the alt-right. In 2017, he attended the “Old South Ball” in Danville, Virginia, and gave a speech saying Virginia was the state of “Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson,” adding that the Confederate flag “is our heritage, it’s what makes us Virginia, and if you take that away, we lose our identity”…

After the violence and racism of the Unite the Right rally, in which a young woman, Heather Heyer, was murdered, Stewart was alone among Virginia Republicans in refusing to criticize the alt-right rally attendees and instead called out his fellow Republicans for being “weak”…

And then there’s Stewart’s relationship with anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, too-racist-for-Twitter Wisconsin Republican House candidate Paul Nehlen…
In case you needed more evidence Stewart’s a racist, he went on CNN to accuse the Democrats of “playing the race card,” which in my experience is dispositive. Further evidence, as if it were needed: Trump endorsed him, and Stewart celebrated his nomination by leading a chant of “Lock her up.” He also wants to put Tim Kaine in prison, for no reason he felt the need to articulate.

In short, Stewart is one of those flaming garbage candidates like Roy Moore who have flourished under Trump, so naturally Stewart received a defense at The Federalist, in this case from David Marcus. Though Marcus appears to find Stewart’s “apparent complete lack of concern over the death of [Heather Heyer]” a net negative, and admits Stewart’s ties with obvious racists “offered no nuance,” still, he says, “the question of whether Stewart is a racist is a complicated one.”

You and I both already know, even before Marcus explains himself, that this is bullshit because, having paid attention to Republican politics for a minute, we know the current vogue is neo-Nazis as “very fine people,” black people who protest police brutality as "sons of bitches" who should be thrown out of the countrytearing immigrant children from their parents and telling refugees fleeing threats on their lives to go back and die to scare them off and thus whiten up America for the edification of the dying racist dotards who elected Trump etc. The chances that Stewart only appears to fit this template, the way a kid might only appear to have been beating off because he happened to be holding his dick a funny way, and to have spilled Baby Magic on it, are vanishingly slim.

But thanks to our sappy, gotta-have-both-sides tradition, we're compelled to give Marcus a hearing, so let’s take this one for the team:
But do these things qualify him as a racist today? At a time when even slight, unconscious actions earn that label, indeed when many on the Left argue that racism is the natural and unavoidable state of all white people, who is a racist? And who, if anyone, isn’t? Do we need some new term for “really, really bad racists,” or do we need to scale back the rate of such accusations?
Uggggh yes it was just as bad as I imagined. Readers more scrupulous than I can continue further down through “both sides have gone off the rails," “Democrats taking photos with Louis Farrakhan or Jeremiah Wright,” etc. But I am old and feel keenly the shortness of life.

The time has come to acknowledge this hard fact: conservatives have gone nuts and will continue to be nuts until crushed. Republicans will continue to nominate Nazis and Klansmen; conservatives will continue to tell us that the Nazis and Klansmen are not so bad and anyway you liberals are the real Nazis and Klansmen; unless prevented by vote-thieves, Democrats will, thanks to this conservative habit, continue to beat most of these Nazis and Klansmen in elections (as happened last night in Wisconsin, despite Scott Walker’s best-and-by-best-I-mean-viciously-undemocratic efforts to prevent it); conservatives will come back and tell us that liberals with their swearing and socialism are making them nominate Nazis and Klansmen, and indeed all America shares their This Is Why Trump Won feeling, despite our many post-Trump victories, and stand contentedly on this chosen ground with their arms folded as they are buried in an avalanche

Like so much these days, it puts me in mind of Dylan:
Well, my baby went to Illinois
With some bad-talkin’ boy she could destroy
A real suicide case, but there was nothin’ I could do to stop it
I don’t care about economy
I don’t care about astronomy
But it sure do bother me to see my loved ones turning into puppets
There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

NORKS 'N' DORKS.

The North Korea thing is such an obvious con -- "I don't need to verify as I have one of the great memories of all time" being only the most spectacular of a series of blazing tells that Trump was bullshitting through this like he bullshits through everything -- that, to me, the most interesting thing about it is not anything that happened in Singapore, but the Twitter thread in which Dinesh D'Souza proposes to "take back Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize and give it to Trump." Better than the MAGA choad hell-yeahs are the guys who think the Nobel has been sullied by Obama's win, as the Golden Globes were by the victory of Pia Zadora. This guy's great...


...but I think this one's my favorite:


In the little theater of @samboyd664's imagination I expect the Chairman of the Olympic Committee, wearing a tux, tells Trump, "I'm a stupid moron with an ugly face and a big butt and my butt smells and I like to kiss my own butt."  (Funny, these guys never bring up Kissinger.) 

It's getting to the point that I'm mainly interested in stopping the flagrant election-stealing that Republicans both off and on the Supreme Court are trying to accomplish just because I want a clean headcount on what percentage of this country is actually brain-damaged. 

To be fair, many of the people who get paid to do presidential prostate massage embarrassed themselves too. Jonah Goldberg:
Still if Kim is actually sincere this time, then the summit will prove to be a huge success. That is a monumental “if,” but it’s one I think every sane person should hope for.
Diplomacy is a land of contrasts, farrrrrt. But -- and I never thought I'd say this -- at least he's concise; get a load of Byron York:
On North Korea, a president who tried something different...
So now the talks have happened, and North Korea has agreed — much like it has in years past — to denuclearize. Critics rightly point out that Kim and his predecessors never kept their promises before. On the other hand, these talks were the result of a series of events unlike those in the past. 
Maybe Trump's plan will work. Maybe it will work a little and not work a little. Or maybe it will fail altogether. But it's the result of a president re-thinking a problem that desperately needed a new approach.
Now that we've got an absolute moron doing it, maybe this time it'll work! Whatever problems you good people have got, be thankful that at least you're not obliged to pick corn out of Donald Trump's shit.

Monday, June 11, 2018

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...this year's Pride column, about conservatives and gays after the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. It's interesting to recall that Trump went out of his way to acknowledge gay rights at the 2016 Republican Convention but, though most wingnuts have abjectly capitulated to Trump on nearly all of his agenda, they have haven't shifted an inch on that. Nor has Trump made inroads in the gay community; every once in a while a Kanye or a Candace Owens turns up to tell us how great Trump is for African-Americans, but we're not getting a lot of new Peter Thiels.

True, Trump has repeatedly proven that he didn't mean any of that outreach shit anyway, but even if he were dancing in a rainbow jockstrap on a float on Fifth Avenue I doubt conservatives would budge. Culture war is their most important product, and homophobia helps keep the religious right on board.

Also, as the column addresses (don't forget to read!), there's always some LGBTQ cultural event like a corporate Pride endorsement or a new trans celebrity that may seem innocuous to you but terrifies the Rod Dreher types who consider themselves Elsie Stonemans beseiged by gay Yankees. Thus we have Jonathan S. Tobin telling readers of National Review -- which was just a few short years ago a conservative anti-Trump publication -- that they must reelect Trump to protect God's people from the homosexual hordes ("it would appear that maintaining his presidency and the GOP Senate majority is going to be a must if conservatives are to preserve any dignity for those who cling to faith"). America may be getting more comfortable with gay marriage, but the people who aren't comfortable are downright hysterical -- and thus a reliable Trump constituency.

Friday, June 08, 2018

RIPPED FROM TOMORROW'S HEADLINES.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a surprise, but not too much of one, President Trump issued the 74th Presidential pardon of his administration to Brock Turner, the Stanford sexual assailant whose unusually brief sentence for his crime in 2015 provoked outrage and led to the 2018 recall of the judge in the case. In a bizarre Skype press conference, Turner told reporters, “I guess you could say I moved on her like a bitch,” followed by a long silence, which he nervously filled by claiming Trump had demanded he make that statement as a condition of his Presidential pardon, which he said Trump had assured him “would get a big laugh.”

An angry Trump later tweeted that “Turner is NOT a man of his WORD” and announced he was rescinding Turner’s pardon — something legal experts say he cannot do. The President included a gif of himself ripping up a piece of paper with the word PARDIN written on it in magic marker.

A number of Democratic Congressman have called for an investigation of the alleged quid-pro-quo, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who tweeted, "the Democratic Party is committed to two propositions: that no man is above the law, and that we don't have the votes to pass single payer."

Trump had previously pardoned 73 citizens including Joe Arpaio, Dinesh D’Souza, former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, Harvey Weinstein, Charlottesville killer James Fields, the Menendez Brothers, and Lizzie Borden. As part of his outreach to black voters, Trump has also commuted the sentence of Alice Johnson, and pardoned the early 20th Century boxing champion Jack Johnson as well as the fictional character Tom Robinson, who he said "got a raw deal" in To Kill a Mockingbird. (Lately Trump has made a habit of pardoning fictional characters, bestowing the honor on “Papa” from Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loved Mama,” Otis the Drunk from "The Andy Griffith Show," and the Beagle Boys from Donald Duck comics.)

Trump has hinted that more pardons are to come, tweeting a gif of the rescue of Elsie Stoneman in Birth of a Nation with the words “Don’t worry Paul Manafort & Michael Cohn HELP IS ON THE WAY!!!”

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

YOU GOTTA FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PRIDE PARADE.

The Trump era was made for such as Rod Dreher. He likes to protest that he's not a Trumpkin, but no one else on God's green earth has as many "I'm not a Trump supporter but..." qualifiers in his writing as he does. Part of this has to do with his Benedict Option racket -- how can he sell the rubes on his monasticism-plus-wifi palaver if Trump has sanctified the land and removed the need for holy retreat? But mainly it's that Trump is Dreher's secret dream: He's embarrassed by Trump, but he loves what Trump is doing for America -- that is, making it easier for bigots like himself.

Lately Brother Rod's been especially hard on the blacks and the gays. Recently he found a Quillette article by a black wingnut at Columbia where the kid, Coleman Hughes, actually asks: if Rihanna gets to have an all-black band, why can't a white person have an all-white band? The obvious answer is GO TO ANY GODDAMN MUSIC FESTIVAL IN AMERICA OR THE U.K. THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME! But Dreher's excited, thinks Hughes is "very, very brave" -- though I can't guess why, because black wingnuts are worth their weight in gold these days -- why, with such credentials you can commit felonies and, if you're sufficiently vituperative toward liberals, there's a good chance Trump will pardon you. (Dinesh D'Souza is so juiced about his pardon that, to reward his benefactor by making him look racially sensitive, D'Souza actually inferred that he himself is a person of color, which I don't believe I've ever seen him do before; usually he hits black people with racial slurs.)

Anywho, Dreher thinks Hughes is the bees knees and, though there's nothing in the Quillette article about gay people, he hauls them into the target area too:
[Hughes] focuses on blacks, but as a general matter, if you read the mainstream press, you’ll find there’s a tendency to treat gays and other minority groups favored by liberals with kid gloves — as if they were symbols, not real people, with the same virtues and vices that everybody else has.
"Mainstream media" being here an obvious, redundant synonym for liberals, this is a callback to an ancient trope that I've been hearing all my life -- probably most familiar to you via Tom Wolfe, but known to me by the yammering of the bigots I grew up with: That liberals, who are always assumed to be white, must not see blacks as fully human -- because if they did they would, like conservatives, despise them. But this Dreher column is the first place I can remember seeing gays pulled into this if-you-really-knew-them-you'd-hate-them-like-me paradigm as well.

The gays have been on Dreher's mind much of late, thanks to Masterpiece Cakeshop's SCOTUS victory over the same-sexers who thought they had a right to buy a wedding cake from them. Over several posts Dreher pee-dances over the decision because it was narrow and does not guarantee a wider right to discriminate against Sodomites (and to keep alive the BenOp shtick, natch). It's all disgusting, but one section particularly leapt out at me: Dreher quotes with approval (that is, he says the author "nails what's happening") R.R. Reno of the theocon magazine First Things on Masterpiece:
That two gay men in Denver can bring to bear the full power of the state against a baker who does not wish to bake them a wedding cake is the height of absurdity. The gay couple do not belong to a vulnerable class of Americans. IRS data show that male-male married couples filing jointly have dramatically higher family incomes than other married couples, to say nothing of the disintegrating working-class families who don’t enjoy the benefits of marriage. Empowering a segment of the upper class to beat up on those who don’t approve of their sex lives is a recipe for social fragmentation.
This brought to my mind the triumphal citation among normal people of gay earning power and corporate acceptance as a sign that gay rights are here to say. I actually got a taste of this today at the corporate cafeteria I visited for lunch, where they were giving away Pride t-shirts, festooned with anodyne (and mostly too small to read) pro-gay hashtags and the (large and readable) company logo on the back. The innocuous ubiquity, or ubiquitous innocuousness, of this sort of thing may give the impression that the battle has been won.

But the very thing that looks like victory -- and should mean victory, given that America advertises itself as a place where honest commercial and financial success are all that matter -- is what Reno is using to attack gays: the notion that they "do not belong to a vulnerable class," and in fact "beat up on" the "disintegrating working-class families" (always presumed to be white and straight) who "don’t enjoy the benefits of marriage"  -- that is, have chosen not to get married, which in the minds of Reno and Dreher must be the gays' fault -- or that of the liberals (always, also, presumed to be white and straight) who, perversely and disloyally, side with the gays. As for the beating-up, why, that is done by gays merely by being gay, and being so rude as to insist on what in other contexts are called Constitutional rights.

In short, these people will do anything to destroy gay rights, and the easiest path for them now is to pretend they're doing so on behalf of less fortunate white straights -- in other words, that segment of the population shown to be most susceptible to Trump's bullshit. If they can convince these poor white, het dopes that gays are stealing something from them -- Straight pride? Jobs that might otherwise be reserved for heterosexuals? The right to beat up and/or rape a class of people that had been fair game in their pappy's day? -- then they just might be able to hitch the Trump Train to their retro mission and pull things back to the way things were before members of the same gender could hold hands in public, let alone all that other stuff.

What I'm saying is, happy Pride, but be prepared: Stonewall was a riot, and it looks as if we may have to pick up some paving stones ourselves.