Wednesday, January 31, 2018


No, I didn't watch it. The Leader's alleged charms, which so enamor the yokels, have always been lost on me; were I paid like the glossier pundits to put up presentation scores on TV, America would be dismayed by my lack of generosity. Hadn't I seen The Leader coolly, confidently avoid eating a rat? Never mind TV, I see the New York Times giving him championship scores:
Trump’s First State of the Union Address: A Call for Unity That Wasn’t Always Heard That Way
Opinions vary! Are immigrants filth, or merely filthy? The Times goes on:
The president promised an optimistic, bipartisan speech, and he largely avoided some of the negative imagery of past speeches. Gone was the “American carnage.”
A look at the transcript shows that American carnage is only "gone" because The Leader has done us the favor of being in charge and suddenly trends that were denounced in 2016 are, though unchanged (like black unemployment) or even weakened (like the rise of the stock market), signs of a "roaring" economy. "Mr. Trump is at heart a salesman," chortles the Times, "and he rarely lets details get in the way of a good story."

And anyway, who needs American carnage when you have MS-13, which became The Leader's stand-in for all immigrants on a certain end of the paper-bag scale (except maybe that nice Messican soldier)? He made clear that he was letting Democrats bring in a few of their foreign riffraff (compromise!) so long as they show "good moral character," which will be affirmed or denied as Republicans require to soothe or rile the white masses at any given moment.

Apart from the vital racism, it was the usual rah-rah ("We heard about Americans like firefighter David Dahlberg. He is here with us too..."), and the dopes are sucking it up. At the crest of the expected wave of conservatives starbursts I find most remarkable one that doesn't mention the SOTU but was obviously planned to coincide with it -- a National Review column by Ben Shapiro (the fighting wingnut who can talk to the young!) about how great everything is (literally called "2018 Is a Great Time to Be Alive") because of the blessings of the free market: he actually cites that traditional conservative conversation-stopper the iPhone, but also increased longevity ("We’re living longer: In 1980, our life expectancy was 73.6 years, but as of 2010, it was 78.7"). Remember all that garment-rending over news that white people were actually living shorter lives, like David French blubbering "D.C. can’t fix problems of the heart" and Shapiro's Daily Wire colleagues asking "If Obamacare Was So Great, Why Did Life Expectancy Drop Last Year?" You won't hear that, or anything else bad about our virtually unchanged economy, from these guys for a while -- as long as the Trumpkins are free to loot the Treasury, befoul the environment, and suppress the vote, it's again Morning in America, with a slightly more downscale con artist in charge.

UPDATE. Look, the original White Working Class whisperer is back among the Pennsyltucky Trumpenvolk, as Salena Zito takes the SOTU pulse of the Ripepi family of Venetia, Pa. These are not quite shot-and-beer salt-of-the-earth Trumpkins -- pops is "chief of surgery at a suburban Pittsburgh hospital" -- but, Zito assures us, they are of "the upper-middle-class suburban voters who live in a blue-collar, upper-middle-class exurb..." So I guess that makes them Honorary Blue Collar, as does their butch rightwing politics (see 15-year-old daughter Lillie: "On the wall, she was adamant: 'Build it.'" Bet at school she's president of Model Identity Evropa!). I though father Tony Ripepi looked familiar, so I checked and sure enough -- Zito used him before, right after the 2016 election. Her lede then:
Dr. Anthony Ripepi wants the cosmopolitan class — who so misread everything about this election cycle — to know the first thing they might want to shed is their constant mocking of those who live in flyover country.
The chief of surgery had a thing or two to say back then to them cosmopolitans from flyover country, or a very comfy "upper-middle-class exurb" of it, and apparently still does. (And here’s Ripepi in another Zito column from January 2017, this time portrayed [for added WWCW points] as one of those Trump voters who "grew up Democrat voters in blue-collar manufacturing towns," back before his first million.) Well, hunting down real proles is a lot of work -- the WWCW gig is easier when the subjects come pre-vetted.

Monday, January 29, 2018


...about the "Secret Society" message that had all of wingnuttia howling about FBI plots against The Leader for a few days -- though of course, embarrassed as they were about that one, they have and probably always will have other plots and conspiracies to bitch about: bigtime crackpot Truepundit (represented on Twitter as "Thomas Paine," LOL) has this one going:
[FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe, the second highest ranking FBI official, emphatically declared at the invite-only gathering with raised voice: “Fuck Flynn and then we Fuck Trump,” according to direct sources.
According to direct sources! Well, I'm convinced. The thing goes on forever, including a reference to "Comey, McCabe and their rogue FBI Sanhedrin" (I can see why the neo-Nazis love this guy), and ends
We would normally demand a federal investigation into such allegations of collusion. But who would conduct it, the FBI?
And that's how conspiracy peddlers keep these things going in perpetuity. Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you lie.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


One of the greatest things ever.

•  Now that it's round-the-horn Friday I'd like to dish out some unpopular opinion. First, as regards the great Eryka Badu saying she could see the "good" in Hitler and other bad people, and people flipping out about it: I was raised Catholic, and as that upbringing was in a New England factory town,  it was neither a fussy nor even a particularly sweet-tempered Catholicism; but even so we were taught that it is wrong to assume anyone is in hell, because only God knows the heart of any man, living or dead. "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord" isn't a war-whoop, but a reminder that eternal judgment is above your pay grade. So what Badu said neither shocks nor particularly displeases me. I am more saddened that our prominent Christians are such poor exemplars of Christ that anyone should be so outraged and so displeased by it. (The worst reactions, to my mind, were those that lamented Badu's "bad PR judgment." First, as Lisa Respers France justly said, have you met her? Secondly, PR is by definition bullshit and these days we are drowning in it; so let us not scruple over optics, and think instead of right and wrong.)

•  I will also raise a mild demurrer over the rage that fell on Matt Yglesias (or, as the assholes at Twitchy put it, "Holy s*it: Matt Yglesias is getting DRAGGED") and others who criticized Judge Rosemarie Aquilina's speech at the end of Larry Nasser's trial. Nasser is scum and I hold no brief for him; nor do I find Aquilina's anger or her advocacy for the victims inappropriate. But I note that many of her defenders said as a point in Aquilina's favor that her speech was no worse than what you'd hear used against less powerful defendants in a county courthouse. I'm sure that's true, and that's the point: I would rather no one waiting for prison doors to swallow them be so used. We Americans have a thirst for retribution that, like our thirst for corn syrup soda, is entirely too easily slaked and no good for us.  (Watch an episode or two of Cops if you don't know what I mean.) So if someone objects when a judge beats on a convict, even one who is undeniably guilty, I sympathize. Call it unwoke if you will.

•  I hope now that the "Secret Society" bullshit has been debunked that we will not forget the wonderful prose poetry it engendered from such as Truepundit:
This isn’t just any rag-tag group of disgruntled employees complaining at the water cooler at the post office. This ‘secret society’ wields serious clout: the type of power that can investigate enemies (see Mueller vs Trump) or take others down (see Flynn)... 
Who belongs to this secret society? 
FBI agents gone rogue against Trump in favor of Barack Obama’s agenda who are linked to the many investigations into FBI corruption
  • Federal judges
  • Federal prosecutors
  • Retired FBI
  • Possibly one sitting Attorney General of a large U.S. state
  • Possibly former Attorney General(s) of the United States
They communicate with meetings over cocktails, at homes, via encrypted chat rooms, texting on drug-cartel-inspired burner phones, and even via an email list, according to sources. Others have secured phones in the names of relatives to try to stay under the radar. 
Corruption in motion...

Secret societies. Secret lists.

The Deep State at work...
A conspiracy so vast oops never mind! Well, it's been a long week and we all could use a laugh.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


The Oscar nominations are out, and if I get some time I hope to watch more of the nominated films and luxuriate in stupid prognostication like I used to do back when I was single and had nothing to do but attend the ci-ne-ma. Speaking of nerds, I see the wingnuts are having their usual allergic reactions. Kyle Smith, who went from pretending to be a film critic at the New York Post (and sometimes a theatre critic -- see his review of Will Ferrell's one-man George W. Bush show, "Is it too much to ask for Hollywood's leading comic actor not to use the deaths of our troops in combat for a giggle?" Never forget!) to full-blown kulturkampfer at National Review, tells his readers what they want to hear, i.e. that the nominations prove "#OscarsSoWoke" and are all about appeasing the dark gods of liberalism: in this "highly politicized year... Academy voters are going to be very eager to send a duly left-wing cultural message" and so, Smith predicts, moviecommies will vote for The Shape of Water which he says is leftwing -- because of the human/nonhuman miscegnation, I guess. Then he says,
As for Get Out, I think this is a very fine movie that is being hugely overrated because it’s about racism and I can’t imagine Oscar voters, who are mostly senior citizens, will be as impressed with it as critics have been.
So Academy voters are too "senior citizen" to vote for Get Out, but "woke" enough to vote for some other woke movie? Maybe there's something in there about Hollywood liberals being The Real Racists™ -- I'm stunned Smith didn't tease that out!

In another post called "The Anti-Trump Oscars" (these guys are nothing if not subtle) Smith explains why The Post can't win even though, if we follow his Zhdanovite logic, its journalistic-heroes-beat-Nixon story would seem to be the obvious choice: "Perhaps the Academy found the film just a bit too by-the-numbers... or voters thought the film was a bit too blatantly intended to capitalize on the anti-Trump mood. The Oscars are a fan dance..." It's all so complicated! Or maybe it's actually simple: the whole idea of everything that happens in movieland being a proxy battle between Republicans and Democrats is a bunch of bullshit. C'mon, Agent Smith, think outside the box!

Also, while I think people who mope about "snubs" because their personal love-objects didn't get Academy recognition are silly, at least they're just harmlessly indulging fan-crushes; Zachary Leeman's "Conservative Movies Snubbed by the Academy" at LifeZette, on the other hand, is like a cross between 1984 and Tiger Beat. For example, Leeman tells us Wind River is conservative because it's "about the mental and physical stability and fortitude still needed to survive in some parts of the country." You know, like Cimarron or Walkabout! Thus it "deserved recognition for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay," and because it didn't get it Leeman has thrown himself on his bed sobbing and kicked off all the frilly pillows. (The other snubbed movies were ignored, Leeman says, because they have uniformed personnel in them, and Oscar never honors servicemembers except for The Hurt Locker and Platoon and Saving Private Ryan and Platoon and Patton etc. etc. [voice trails off])

Speaking of snubs, if you thought Wonder Woman didn't get any nominations because, news flash, not every big-budget comic-book movie gets the prestige awards that lonely dorks holed up with their "light saber" and a box of Kleenex believe it should, Brandon Morse of RedState is here to tell you it's really because "Hollywood, being the left wing haven that it is, couldn’t stomach a few of Wonder Woman’s glaring politically incorrect flaws." That seems weird, as I remember when the movie came out conservatives were mainly tumescent with rage at all-female showings of the film. But no, Morse tells us,
For one, feminists didn’t seem to think Wonder Woman was suitable as a rep for their narrative. She was too sexy and too beautiful.
And when he unsheathed his light-saber, an usher threw him out of the theater.

Others among the brethren run their own little fantasy factories -- like Victory Girls' Kendall Sanchez saying Get Out is about "how progressives attempt to understand the cultural experience of African Americans." I know, that's what we all took away from it. Also, while Kyle Smith thinks Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is "about a vengeful feminist looking for answers after her daughter’s murder and also has a racist character" and therefore is "just as woke as The Shape of Water" -- a damning assessment, indeed! -- Kendall thinks "it’s a great movie about a desperate mother urging police to find her daughter’s murderer. I went into the movie thinking it would be a giant slam against police" -- and therefore bad! -- "but it turned out to be a humble and empathetic story that emphasized all humans are 1) intention-driven and 2) both good and bad." Ebbing, Missouri is a land of contrasts!

Maybe Smith and Kendall can do a podcast where they argue over whether a movie is conservative-therefore-good or liberal-therefore-bad. That'll really show the libs and send the walls of Hollyweird tumbling down, and our children's children's children will have nothing to watch on the telescreen but Veggie Tales, God's Not Dead 1-3,927, and the Two Minutes Hate, as God intended.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: For conservatives, culture war is not a war for culture but a war on culture.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


I'm fascinated by the Nunes secret-memo-that-proves-Obama-spied-on-Trump, but no-fair-asking-me-to-show-it-to-you thing, to which I briefly alluded in Monday's column. Mainly it's about the traction the story has found at the highest levels of the conservative movement, despite its profoundly unconservative premise. It's one thing for Infowars crackpots to tout an alleged copy of this memo (the prologue, "Update: Despite media claims to the contrary, our congressional sources confirmed..." tells you all you need to know), but quite another for actual Republican Congressmen like Steve King and Mark Meadows to serve as barkers for the fraud. I mean, King and Meadows are shitheels, but in olden times one would have expected the dignity of the office to prevent them for behaving this way out in public -- at least since the humiliation of Joe McCarthy made it unfashionable. (Update: And now they've got a GOP Senator raving about a Secret Society on TV.)

But it sure is in fashion now. And while a lot of the hooey conservatives have been spreading is of the old, expected variety -- Clinton crime family, Obama the Muslim traitor, George Soros and Saul Alinsky made babies and I saw one of the babies and the baby looked at me, etc. -- stuff like the Nunes memo is of the "Deep State" variety of conspiracy thinking, positing that a permanent government of spies, bureaucrats, and other unelected lever-pullers is subverting the will of the (not-quite-majority of the) people, while brave truth-tellers like Nunes and Trump (and Seth Rich, Julian Assange, et alia) try to bring the whole rotten apparatus down.

This strikes me as a really new propaganda frontier for them to be getting into -- and not because it's any more difficult to believe than their usual nonsense; in fact, on its face it's easier to believe, because there really are government agencies that are only semi-accountable to democracy. And though it's a total howl that conservatives, with their long history of authoritarianism, are suddenly bitching about a meddling FBI and CIA, it's not the hypocrisy that gets me. After all, this is America, where political movements only reform when they find it in their electoral interest to do so. There's nothing intrinsically weird about conservatives going all Jim Garrison -- look at James O'Keefe.

No, the real weirdness of the current situation is this: Conservative nonsense is usually at least based on the traditional values of the movement. Their Obama fantasies are based on their racism; their Hillary Clinton fetish, on their sexism; and their Soros-Alinsky-Frankfurt School shtick on the notion that the America dream cannot succumb to self-generated flaws because it has none, and can only be brought down by Satanic, foreign conspiracies.

But turning against the nation's intelligence agencies -- the guys who helped them fight, sometimes with extreme prejudice, the Communists, the hippies, the Black Panthers et alia -- that's not just a change in tactics; that's something like a psychotic break.

Speaking of which, now we have this I'm-not-saying-it-was-aliens from Rush Limbaugh (h/t Ana Marie Cox):
What if the intel on the war in Iraq was another disinformation campaign, to damage another Republican president?... 
What if the quote-unquote "intelligence community" misrepresented, on purpose, the degree to which Hussein had WMDs?... 
What if Saddam weapons of mass destruction was also a false narrative designed to -- what, did it ultimately embarrass Bush? Did it weaken the US military? Did it -- whatever it did, I mean, it opened the doors for the Democrats to literally destroy his presidency in the second term, which is what they did.
Again, once upon a time I assumed such a brain-melting idea as the Democrats using the CIA to trick Bush into the Iraq War would be beneath a popular radio star like Limbaugh -- the proof being that he never tried it before, presumably because even his numbskull listeners would assume he'd lost it. But in our new age he apparently thinks it's worth a shot.

I'm trying to imagine where this all leads and I have to admit I'm stumped. I'm used to them being full of shit, and had supposed the effect of having the Prince of Lies as a party leader had just made them even more full of shit, but this goes beyond mere shamelessness into schizophrenia. The one thing that sort of reassures me is that they haven't flipped on anything significant -- like, they show no sign of genuine interest in the plight of the poor and underprivileged, and Lord knows they're still doing what they can to destroy representative democracy. So maybe this is a difference of degree rather than of kind -- after all, since Americans are conspiracy nuts, one secret society is as good as any other. But if they start advocating for a universal basic income -- I mean for real, not as some kind of lame thought experiment -- all bets are off.

Monday, January 22, 2018


...about the Women's March and why it burned conservatives' asses. Well, what do you expect: The shutdown they were eager to blame on Democrats, going so far as to pull out the "Liberals Love Browns Who Will Kill You Good White People" argument; and the Nunes peek-a-boo memo, the latest in a serious of increasingly crackpot efforts by wingnuts to derail the Mueller investigation by pretending to give a shit about FISA, is so shaky even Glenn Greenwald has turned his nose up at it.

This has left the brethren who have to push these "bombshell" revelation looking increasingly ridiculous.  Look at Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, for example, who posted about Nunes' memo under the bombshell headline “Meadows: You Won’t Believe What’s In This House Intel Report,” then talked the report down (“Why does #ReleasetheMemo feel like a set-up for a let-down?”), then told his readers, “Will the suspense be worth the payoff? Perhaps…” That, as we say, is how the pros do it, folks.

On top of that, the last thing they wanted was a bunch of mouthy chicks. Well, they better get used to them.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Something weird I noticed: since that nerve-wracking Hawaii alert last weekend -- which brought back for this old duck-and-cover kid some old-fashioned end-of-the-world dread for which, it turns out, I was not really nostalgic -- conservatives have been talking about nuclear war as if it wouldn't be such a big deal.

“If a Missile Alert Sounds,” headlined David French of National Review, “Prepare to Live.” Hmm, I thought when I first saw that, some people are so jaded they need apocalypse porn to get excited; but it turns out French wants to convince readers that, despite what the nervous nellies say, they could happily survive a hail of H-bombs.
Prepare to live. As tempting as it may be, don’t spend the precious minutes between missile alert and missile impact texting family, sending tearful goodbyes on Snapchat, or attempting to reconcile old grudges. Don’t do it.
Your family will respect you more, knowing that in the final hours you didn't go all wobbly and tell them you loved them.
First, you have to understand that the odds are overwhelming that you’ll survive an initial blast. Nuclear weapons are devastating, but it’s a Hollywood myth that any individual strike will vaporize an entire American city, much less the suburbs and countryside…
Hollywood always exaggerates these things. For instance, they never show you the parts of Hiroshima that were open for business the next day.
Second, you also need to understand that you have far more control over your survival than you might think. Time and isolation are your friends…
No shock a conservative would argue for time and isolation — if living 80 lonely years in Gopher Hole, North Dakota makes you a loyal Republican in good standing, then being a nuclear attack survivor should make you a precinct captain!
Yesterday’s warning presents an opportunity to take stock. Do you have an emergency plan? Do you have a basic stock of emergency supplies? Do you know exactly where you’d go in your house? Have you gone to websites like to understand the basics? There’s nothing weird or strange about being a basic “prepper.”
So stock up on Jim “Brother Love” Bakker’s Survival Chow!  And stock up on guns, ammo, crossbows, machetes (we calls ‘em “Mega-Bowies” so they sound less Messican), and quarterstaffs to fend off interlopers in your post-apocalyptic paradise! Remember, time and isolation are your friends.

French’s colleague Michael Brendan Dougherty chimes in: “a single, nuclear device exploding in a nearby city does not necessarily doom you and your loved ones to death.” He encourages readers to have “a little unpleasant discussion around the dinner table” with their families to prepare. Most memorable line: “If you ever received such a text warning, would you fill your bathtub with water, or with your family members?” Well, after they've been incinerated I guess your bathtub could accommodate quite a lot of them.

And Austin Bay — remember him? — complains that “the Clinton Administration slowed anti-ballistic missile development because hard left Democrats disdained Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative”; boy, some grudges really die hard. But his initial complaint is even weirder:
When told by government authorities that an attack was underway, Hawaiian residents felt vulnerable, even those who know the U.S. Navy deploys AEGIS ballistic missile defense warships in the area. Still, Hawaii's current missile defenses are quite thin, so many people panicked. 
Yeah, that’s why announcing a nuclear attack made them panic — they’d all been thumbing through Jane’s just the day before and had doubts about our missile defense system.

It's easy enough to conclude that they know a nuclear tantrum is a Trump possibility, and want to prep their people to roar approval rather than scream in terror when the mushroom clouds sprout. But as always I lean toward the psychological, and assume it's another form of culture war: Since back in the Cold War days liberals made all those movies about how bad nuclear war would be, for conservatives it stands to reason that nuclear war must actually be good. All it needs is the right publicity!

Monday, January 15, 2018


(No, I'm not off for the holiday, but I did want to tell you good people the Voice column will be delayed till tomorrow because of it, and to file in recompense some short bits as time permits.)

•  Saw The Post. It’s a big old parfait of received opinion — but good, as the old joke goes. Many of the complaints I’ve heard about it have to do with the characters, such as they are, announcing the nature of their conflicts and the messages of their scenes, baldly and without shame; it’s only a little cheap when editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), half a movie after publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) chides him for keeping the Kennedys' secrets, comes back tell her “those days have to be over”; but when the first injunction against the New York Times is greeted by a little Greek chorus of Postmen talking about the First Amendment In Peril, it’s a big pot of fondue, and when Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon), phone pressed to her ear, sings out to the hushed newsroom Hugo Black’s “press was to serve the governed, not the governors” line, it’s the whole fromagerie. But good! I loved it like I love Oliver Stone’s hallucinogenic JFK, and the old “message pictures” that I think are Spielberg’s real inspiration here; he has intuited that when a message pic gets off on being righteous, if you do it right it won’t turn audiences off — it will rather invite them to join in, and let the righteousness lift them up too. In such an exercise underdeveloped characters and aw-c’mon exposition fall far beside the point. I won’t go as far as Gandhi on that, but I’ll go pretty far and The Post is within my limit; if you too thrill to the scene in Sam Fuller's Park Row when Gene Evans drags a malefactor to the statue of Ben Franklin and smashes his head repeatedly against its base, it may be within yours, too. I will add that while Hanks, hard as he works on his gruffness, does little to disturb the shade of the great Robards, Meryl Streep, whom I never really liked, finally made a believer out of me. She usually strikes me as fussy, but her small, almost furtive emotional turns as she struggles against, then awakens to the full meaning of her duty struck me as completely appropriate to a great lady who is unafraid to be embarrassed but terrified to be wrong.

•  Department of Who's "We," Buddy: "We’re Becoming Like Him," reads the National Review headline over a picture of Trump, but no, it's not the erstwhile NeverTrumpers finally admitting the obvious, it's Michael Brendan Dougherty, as is his passive-aggressive wont, using "we" to mean liberals; instead of lamenting that top Republicans are currently trying to cover for Trump's obviously racist remarks, he tells us, "Kirsten Gillibrand now tentatively tries on a potty-mouth'; instead of criticizing Trump for using his cat's-paws to indulge his Clinton fetish with endless investigations, Dougherty tells us "loads of Russia-related stories blew up in reporters’ faces." The nadir is his implication that a federal judge restraining Trump's DACA directive was also "becoming like" Trump: "There is little chance a justice would have ventured to look so ridiculous, until Trump became our president." Judges blocked Obama sometimes, of course, but that was just Constitutional, see -- when you do it to Trump, you're becoming just like him!  I swear, if these people didn't have double standards they'd have no standards at all.

Friday, January 12, 2018


For obvious reasons.

•   You want to know why they're hopeless? At National Review David French is upset because America has seen its life expectancy decline yet again. The Washington Post reports:
The data a year ago set off alarms when they showed that in 2015 the United States experienced its first decline in life expectancy since that 1993 dip. Experts pointed then to the “diseases of despair” — drug overdoses, suicides and alcoholism — as well as small increases in deaths from heart disease, strokes and diabetes. 
The 2016 data shows that just three major causes of death are responsible: unintentional injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and suicides, with the bulk of the difference attributable to the 63,632 people who died of overdoses. That total was an increase of more than 11,000 over the 52,404 who died of the same cause in 2015.
Many of those "unintentional injuries" are drug overdoes. Now, you and I might look at this and think: Let's work harder on a cure for Alzheimer's, and on getting people more care for all those other diseases; above all let's make a society where everyone feels like valuable and cared for instead of just suckers whose only value is as prey in a vicious, winner-take-all society, because that's the kind of society from which people are inclined to seek an early exit. But French looks at this and thinks:
Government and the media are simply not up to the task. Think, for example, of the intensity of last month’s debate over the size of the child tax credit in the Republican tax bill. I shared the disappointment of a number of conservatives that the tax benefits for families weren’t larger, but I was under no illusion that even hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks would make a material difference in family outcomes. Yes, people respond to incentives, and positive tax changes help more than they hurt, but no reasonable person thinks that any single policy or series of policies in Washington will put the fractured family back together again.
French is a evangelical Christian (although -- and you'll love this -- he's talked about renouncing the term because his fellow holy rollers have gotten so depraved they're making him look bad). So it's a cinch that when he says government can't do anything for the vulnerable -- even though, in terms of child care policy, government has been effectively doing plenty for millions of children -- he expects Jesus to fill the gap, possibly through the reintroduction of the faith-based grifts of yore. In other words: pie in the sky and pass the collection plate. So I'm telling you: If you want a more just society, you can't just freeze out the obvious Trumpian crooks, you also have to get rid of the God-botherers who would tell you helping is futile and that the Lord will provide. In fact maybe get rid of them first.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


The President Oprah thing is already beginning to die down, but before the historic moment passes let us bring to Clio's attention one particular piece of related gibberish from Opus Dei conservative Michael Brendan Dougherty at National Review. It is, as one would expect, dismissive of Winfrey — “about how women are rising up to speak ‘their truth,’ telling ‘those men’ who have oppressed them that ‘their time is up’" is his sneer-quote-intensive description of her speech (Gad, isn’t it just like a woman to get pissy about rape and harassment!) -- and has a Big Idea about the Meaning Of It All, please God, but instead of sticking with the traditional mush about what celebrity culture hath wrought, Dougherty goes the extra mile to fix blame for celebrity culture on “wonks.” How ya figure, MBD?
The wonk’s role is well-fitted to the centrist political ideal in the post–Cold War West. For them, government is most highly admirable when it is totally denuded of questions of value or morality (these having obvious and uncontroversial answers), and reduced to a purely technical exercise. The politician working with the wonk finds that his job is reconciling the public with what’s good for them. 
Imagine — being so almighty arrogant that you want government to give people “what’s good for them” (like working bridges and highways, health care, etc.) instead of gifting them with your moral value decisions like “hmm, feeding these poor black people seems moral, but wouldn't it be more Christian to let their starvation and misery serve to spur others to thrift and industry?”
And this fits the machinery of the executive branch, which is filled with hundreds of thousands of civil servants, overseen by a much smaller retinue of political appointees almost all chosen from within the governing class of the country. 
He doesn’t mention private-sector government contractors, who soak the public fisc at least as well as any Gummint bureaucrat (no “what’s good for them” nonsense for those privateers — just good old-fashioned free-market self-enrichment!), because they are of Reagan, which is to say of the Lord.
Where this model of government is most advanced — in Europe — policy questions are routinely taken away from the passions of democratic peoples, and quarantined for expert management.
Dougherty is of the Dreher/Douthat school that wishes Eurocrats would stop thwarting the true will of white people and let neo-Nazis lead.

We could go on forever like this but ugh, let’s cut to the chase: according to Dougherty these silly “what’s good for them” government wonks are making a celebrity president like Oprah inevitable, while serious people like Dougherty prefer “the traditional politician, a person of judgment and charisma who represents the community from which he or she emerges, using his own wisdom in reconciling the diverse interests and needs of his nation and constituency” — you know, like Reagan and Trump. Or the have-a-beer-worthy George W., if you want to talk about genuinely manufactured celebrity -- for Bush Lite, who would have had neither business nor political cred without wealth and Republican handlers, was about as big a put-up job as Peter Lemonjello.

"Wonks are now the producers, behind the scenes," closes Dougherty. "The celebrities are just the talent, reading lines and leveraging their brand for the great project of governance." I don't know whether Dougherty saw Trump going off the reservation on DACA and being guided back to orthodoxy by Kevin McCarthy before he wrote that, but even if he didn't, he should know by now that you don't need good-government types to treat political leaders like the "talent"; simple goons and grifters are if anything even better at it.

Monday, January 08, 2018


...about The Filth and the Fury or whatever it's called but really about the pushback from wingnuts who don't see how people can talk about such a highly accomplished public servant as Donald Trump that way, which will never not be funny. I'm no one's idea of a goddamn ray of sunshine but I think Trump's going to have to get better cheerleaders than the freaks and feebs he's got -- the Sig Ruman impersonator Sebastian Gorka accusing Wolff of "treasonous goals" is not going to win the hearts of Mr. and Mrs. America, and they would probably react to the approach of Stephen Miller by remembering some old story their grandparents told them about a ghost that eats children and barring the door.

UPDATE. No matter how low your opinion of these people goes, they will always disappoint you. As longtime readers will know, I am against distance diagnoses of politicians' alleged illnesses, including the mental variety, including Trump's; so I was not in favor of the 25th Amendment reactions to Wolff's book, and was at first sympathetic to wingnut Peter Hasson at The Daily Caller, who defended Trump from charges of clinical abnormality. Then halfway through his column Hasson started defending wingnut citations of Hillary Clinton’s allegedly disqualifying health issues in the 2016 campaign — such as a “prolonged, public coughing fit” — and insisted “questions about Clinton’s health weren’t pure speculation." To say Trump's very public incapacity for sequential thought is meaningless, and then turn around and defend the idea that Hillary couldn't be President because of various serious illnesses that have not, as of this writing, killed her, is a level of hypocrisy I think would most of us would be too embarrassed to perform for far grander sums than whatever The Daily Caller pays.

Sunday, January 07, 2018


Eddie Scarry at the Washington Examiner:
Why hasn't Michael Wolff's dementia-Trump ever been seen in public?
Dementia-Trump has been the only Trump I've seen, excepting those rare occasions when his handlers glue him to a teleprompter -- when he still sucks, but less crudely, causing the media dummies to swoon over him. Speaking of which, Scarry again:
But he's also delivered dozens of speeches off teleprompters, proving he can actually read...
Now that is one hell of a defense -- though it fails to account for the possibility that the cue-cards contain pictograms rather than words.

Then Scarry has the nerve to print a partial transcript of an interview in which Trump sounds like a mentally impaired geriatric, and commenting, "That doesn’t read like a mentally impaired geriatric’s interview," a maneuver I call the Hinderaker Fawn-and-Fleer.

Also, in answer to Wolff’s claim that “Trump is perpetually distracted,” Scarry said when he interviewed Trump, “Trump did stop the interview at certain points, interruptions you might call ‘distractions’” — for example, “he asked for me to hold while he watched a cable news segment about the speakers that were lined up for the convention. 'We have some great speakers, they’re just announcing the speakers now,' he said while I held. Then we resumed." Now, what does that tell you? Ha, "distracted"! He remembered who Scarry was and everything. At least I assume he did.

I wonder whether Scarry ever thought for a minute what a embarrassment that whole exercise was -- or what drugs one takes not to notice.

Thursday, January 04, 2018


I'm so old I remember when those famous deficit hawks of the Republican Party looked the other way as George W. Bush ran a surplus into a huge deficit with tax cuts and foreign wars. (Actually not all of them looked the other way; some of them bullshat with all their might about how it wasn't Bush who did it, it was the bleeding-hearts' cavalier spending on stupid things like food and medicine for poor people.)

Well, you don't have to be old to remember last month when Trump and the Republicans larded another trillion-plus onto the deficit just so more rich assholes can douche with Dom Pérignon and wipe their ass with Treasury notes. At this point most Americans are clear about that and are probably at least closing in on the revelation that Republicans are full of shit when they profess concern with deficit spending.

It's so obvious even clue-averse Ross Douthat has picked up on it, and last weekend while people were distracted with New Year's preparations the Times columnist announced that if 2017 taught him anything, it's that deficits don't matter.

Douthat announced he had some "mistaken analysis to acknowledge and live down" and, after praising Trump because he "appointed decent judges and crushed the Islamic State" (Mission Accomplished!), admitted his error:
Now is a good time for intellectual humility, and for reserving judgment on an administration whose ultimate effects on domestic tranquillity and the Pax Americana remain uncertain. 
Instead, in the spirit of the longer view, I want to use this confessional column to reach back to the early Obama years, and the arguments I made then that assumed the urgency of deficit reduction, the pressing need for honest liberals to champion major tax increases and for honest conservatives to go all-in for major entitlement reform.
Yes, in those Obama years, for Douthat "it seemed reasonable to make deficit cutting a near-term priority from 2010 onward, to offset the surge of Great Recession spending with a period of belt-tightening." But he was wrong, oh, so wrong, and now believed "rather than pursuing a balanced budget for its own sake" America, being "a rich and powerful country with a stable government and control over its own currency," should not be "pursuing a balanced budget for its own sake."

Of course who could blame him -- Douthat certainly didn't blame himself: after all "people in the Obama White House" told him "it was important to reduce deficits pre-emptively," so it's really Obama's fault when you think about it.

Nowhere in this mea culpa did Douthat mention the geyser of new debt with which his former fellow deficit hawks had gifted the fisc; he's clearly hoping that we'll take it on faith that his was an organic growth toward his new loose money position, informed by careful study and fervent prayer. Maybe when the country's in ruins, Douthat will have another conversion experience; and, watching the senile Trump hauled off to prison, will like Harry Lynch in Wall Street say "the minute I laid eyes on you I knew you were no good." And expect us to believe it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018


Sad news from Culture Warsyltucky:
As of January 1, 2018, is no longer publishing new content. Our archives will remain available. 
Thank you to all of our readers, who inspired us to think about the many ways pop culture matters.
I still remember back in 2012 when, seemingly spurred by Ole Perfesser Instapundit's call for rightwing ladymags (but funded by Lord knows who), this outpost began tossing (but gently! And underhand, like a lady!) little Kultur bombs like this one about how feminism is alright but Downton Abbey showed you how the old-fashioned idea of womanhood was in many ways better, particularly if you were rich: "One side of me envies the women of Downton ever so slightly," thrilled Ashley E. McGuire. "Envies the thought of my husband referring to me as 'her ladyship.'" (I can't help but think of some slobby guy in a soiled t-shirt yelling from the kitchen, "Yer meatball sub is ready, yer ladyship!")

For five years, Acculturated gave us this and more; here are my few clips from their era which may be the only memorial some of their great works will ever have -- were it not for me, who would remember McGuire's "Is Ivanka Trump America's Kate Middleton?" or that ideas like "Drugs are ruining EDM" or pseudo-academic thumb-suckers like "'Fuller House' and the Disappearance of Marriage" were once entertained by presumably straight-faced editors before being released upon an apathetic public.

Acculturated also gave an outlet for Mark "Gauvreau" Judge, a Kulturkampfer with a long history in the movement that includes a 90s attempt to spread conservatism though swing dancing ("in the revival of swing dancing, [Judge] detects a model for cultural renewal," blurbed his publisher); without Acculturated, we may have missed such late Judgean gems as
When I was in high school at Georgetown Prep, a Jesuit school that prided itself on producing men who could both lay down a block and conjugate Latin, we had a term for well-rounded women: “cool chicks.”
I confess, I worry for Judge; in our low, mean, Breitbartian time, what conservative publisher will accommodate his daintily daffy style? I worry less for the many, often three-named junior misses who filled many of Acculturated's pages; consider, for example, McGuire's resume:
She has appeared on CNN, CNN International, CBS News, Fox News, PBS, The History Channel, HuffPo Live, ABC/Yahoo News Live, EWTN, and the BBC, and her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, First Things, the Claremont Review of Books, and the Huffington Post, among others...
Like many a pundit maudit before me, I have a soft spot for lunatics and whackadoodles, and Acculturated's Bizarro analyses often came close to appealing to that part of my nature. But that was always spoiled by my awareness that when all was said and done, Acculturated was just a wingnut welfare warm-up studio, and instead of clawing their way out of incompetence or, like Ed Wood, apotheosizing it, these writers were just going to get kicked upstairs and given tighter briefs ("Nice idea about 'Fuller House,' honey, but howsa 'bout you dumb it down for National Review into something like, 'Why Lena Dunham Is a Whore'?"), and over time whatever mad effulgence they had would cool and harden into careerism, and they would still be shitty writers. Well, there are plenty of real mad geniuses out there to fuss over.

UPDATE. Comments are a gas, by which I mean part of the toxic miasma that has poisoned Western Civilization and which Acculturated sought in vain to dispel -- but funny! BigHank53 offers a clue as to why the site's doilies-and-dogma anti-feminism became unneeded in the modern conservative paradigm: "Today, of course, everyone has realized you can just walk up to those same women and grab 'em by the pussy." Pere Ubu remembers, apparently, and obliquely refers to one of the racier wingnut-ladymag articles I've covered, posted at The Federalist because (presumably) it was too hot for Acculturated: "6 Reasons to Sext Your Husband" -- which, despite the impression its title may leave, was meant to get the wife of said husband to sext him, not as a taunt; nonetheless it did contain the deathless phrase, "skin bus to Tuna Town." Top that, Peggy Noonan!

Oh, and I found us all a treat -- the Acculturated Pinterest Page! Sample:

Back in the early 60s nobody got depressed or syphilis because they had cocktails, sexism, and Jesus; also, if you get a high-and-tight you can tell the "cool chicks" you joined the Marines. Sigh, it was fun while it lasted, guys...

Tuesday, January 02, 2018


...of my Top 10 Stupid Rightblogger Tricks. Special double-length column, no extra charge!

Long as it is, I had a couple of outtakes:

Wingnut lawyer calls civil rights hero a “fraud.”

John Lewis, now a Democratic Representative in Congress from Georgia, marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 and got his skull cracked for it. Lewis also got attacked by new President Donald Trump around the weekend of MLK Day 2017, after Lewis criticized his repulsive civil rights record, and Power Line’s John Hinderaker backed Trump thus: “Lewis is invariably described as a ‘civil rights icon,’ but the man is an utter fraud.”

How a man cruelly beaten in the cause of civil rights might be considered a fraud - especially by a guy whose greatest sacrifice to his own cause might be working late on Friday — Hinderaker didn’t explain. “There is no reason to treat John Lewis with kid gloves,” he sniffed, “and Donald Trump doesn’t do so.” Or, to paraphrase: You may be a national hero, but I am a shameless and energetic hack in the service of a buffoon, and history shows that I have the advantage.

Liberal Fascism for Dummies.

Normally I’d leave this spot open for Jonah Goldberg, and God knows he has plenty of worthy entries this year — like this one, in which he mused that in the post-Lincoln era, “I’d like to think I’d have been in the Radical Republican camp myself.” Try to imagine the inventor of the “Marion Berry cocktail… equal parts Jaegermeister, Kaluha, Bourbon and Coke; ‘So black not even the man can keep it down!’” hanging out with Thaddeus Stevens.

But Goldberg has been outstripped by Dinesh D’Souza, longtime rightwing operative and convicted felon: While Goldberg got his most recent fame boost in 2008 with Liberal Fascism, a dumb book about how liberals are the Real You-Know-Whats, D’Souza has published The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of American Left, which, on the evidence of D’Souza’s August column, “THE SEX PERVERT AS ANTI-FASCIST,” appears to be similar in theme and even dumber.

I can hardly encapsulate it here, but the basic idea is that Frankfurt School Marxists tricked college kids into having orgies: “Marcuse’s celebration of outright perversion was a mantra that could not be more perfectly timed in the 1960s.” And getting all sexed up like this also made them liberal Nazis, because “while the rutting bohemians of the 1960s had no idea, Marcuse surely knew that the Nazis and the Italian fascists were themselves – almost to a man – bohemians.”

Hitler, for example, “was a painter and artiste before he went into politics,” wrote D’Souza; he listened to Wagner, and “was also a vegetarian.” And you stupid liberals think arts appreciation and tofu make you enlightened — if actually means you’re a Nazi!

Even being gay is part of the liberal Nazi nexus — did you know about Ernst Rohm? Indeed, “the Nazi atmosphere in those days… far more closely resembles that of the Village Voice or the Democratic National Convention than it does the National Review or the Trump White House.”

He’s got us dead to rights there. I just wonder why the guys marching around chanting “Jews will not replace us” don’t get in on the sex and bohemianism; I mean, I hear they can’t even beat off. Can merely hating Jews and pluralism really be enough of a payoff?

Monday, January 01, 2018


Last year was a fiasco, a real disaster, so full of sorrow,
This year will be a great year, I just can't wait, dear, until tomorrow

Listen, guys, it was a bad year, but we summoned our energy and sometimes our rage, and mostly kept our sense of humor, and -- I guess maybe I should speak for myself here -- it was that sense of humor that carried me though. The past year compares badly to recent years, but compares tolerably well to the past century; and throughout the tough years of that century guys like Nikolai Gogol, Jaroslav Hašek, Joseph Heller, Evelyn Waugh, Michael O'Donoghue, Kurt Vonnegut, Matt Groening, and others have on black days parted the clouds so the rest of us could see a way clear.

Let sad dogs nurse and worry gloom; I was born to be happy, and if there's nothing to be cheerful about I will rely on my gift of laughter and my sense that the world is mad. If you need, I will share it with you; follow along then into 2018 and devil take the hindmost.

UPDATE. Oh yeah, like last holiday weekend the Voice column will be delayed till Tuesday. If you need some funsies before then, check out the annual Jon Swift Roundup hosted by the brilliant Batocchio of Vagabond Scholar, in which some fine web writers select their own best work from the now-finished year. Not a dud in the bunch!  

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Remember when Bill de Blasio, promising to stop stop-and-frisk, was elected Mayor of New York in 2013, and all the wingnuts were insisting the City would suffer a 70s crime wave as a result? (Which I hoped they were right about, because then maybe I could afford to move back.)

At City Journal Bob McManus raved about Bernie Goetz and Sonny Carson and murmured with a flashlight under his chins, "History may not repeat itself, but sometimes it whispers warnings. The wise will pay heed." "Mayor Bill de Blasio’s radical dreams are leading straight to chaos," moaned his colleague Myron Magnet.

When the cops were mad at de Blasio in 2014, fedora clown Jazz Shaw called for de Blasio to resign, claiming he had "open[ed] the door to anarchy." "Everyone loves a little nostalgia," said Susan L.M. Goldberg. "It's just too bad for New York that de Blasio favors the era of Midnight Cowboy, Taxi Driver and Dog Day Afternoon. Still thinking of watching the ball drop this New Year's Eve? Join the rest of us celebrating from the safety of our own homes."

And there were endless "Welcome to de Blasio's New York" fart-bubbles from assholes like John Podhoretz, and ooga-boogity one-liners like "DE BLASIO’S NEW YORK LOOKING MORE AND MORE LIKE TAXI DRIVER" from gomers and hayseeds.

Well, here it is almost 2018, de Blasio has been re-elected, and crime in the Apple is the lowest it's been since the 1950s. (The numbers were going down throughout de Blasio's tenure -- which you could tell because reporters started talking about how stop-and-frisk actually stopped before he became mayor, something you would never have heard had crime gone up.)

With their doomsday scenario in ruins, what's the play for lawn-order conservatives now? Fox News yesterday:
Does Trump deserve credit for drop in violent crime?
Ha ha, of course. But for the "intellectual" take, let us attend the first City Journal hack out of the bunker, Heather Mac Donald:
Cop critics who assiduously ignored the 20 percent increase in the national homicide rate over the previous two years have suddenly become enthusiastic purveyors of crime statistics.
Back when you libtards were made out of straw and called I.M. A. Stupid Libtard, you didn't like statistics! Well, Mac Donald has some stats for you -- New York's safer because it has fewer black people!
New York City’s formerly high-crime neighborhoods have experienced a stunning degree of gentrification over the last 15 years, thanks to the proactive-policing-induced conquest of crime. It is that gentrification which is now helping fuel the ongoing crime drop. Urban hipsters are flocking to areas that once were the purview of drug dealers and pimps...
And by "drug dealers and pimps," Mac Donald means African-Americans (and she's shockingly up front about it):
The degree of demographic change is startling. In Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, for example, the number of white residents rose 1,235 percent from 2000 to 2015, while the black population decreased by 17 percent, reports City Lab. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, the number of whites rose 610 percent over that same decade and a half; the black population was down 22 percent. Central Harlem’s white population rose 846 percent; the black share dropped 10 percent. In 2000, whites were about three-quarters of the black population in Brownsville-Ocean Hill; by 2015, there were twice as many whites as blacks...

A black New Yorker is 50 times more likely to commit a shooting than a white New Yorker...
Yeah yeah, Racist Aunt, except in 1980, at the height of Death Wish Woo-hoo, black people made up 25% of the City’s population and today, it’s… also 25%. So, WTF? I guess maybe she means the shooty-stabby blacks all moved to neighborhoods where they don't have fancy restaurants. Anyway forget that, because Mac Donald rejoices that fewer cops are getting shot, which she imagines must make "libertarians and the anti-cop Left" mad, and for which of course she can't possibly credit the Mayor:
It is too soon to know definitively if the animus toward officers has fallen and if any such fall is behind the welcome drop in officer slayings. But without question, there has been a sea change in rhetoric and policy from the White House. Trump and Sessions do not take every opportunity to accuse the cops of systemic and lethal bias — yet when the facts warrant, the Sessions Justice Department has vigorously prosecuted and denounced cops who violate their oath of office. Sessions and Trump have repeatedly voiced their support for law enforcement, without coupling that support with a denunciation of phantom police racism.
So the intellectual wingnut perspective is essential Fox News': All good things flow from Il Douche! Well, why wouldn't they: Their base of Godly Country Folk and Righteous Suburbanites despises New York anyway, and are only interested in it as a symbol of the foul consequences of Other-loving. When stories like the New York crime drop make it apparent that in the Big Wicked Cities people of different races and creeds can actually live close together in relative harmony and comfort, they may become confused, and led to wonder whether there's something wrong with their own way of life, in which they can't be comfortable unless insulated from their fellow citizens by miles of waste space, opioids, and guns. That's where the MAGA fantasies come in most handy, assuring them that any way of life they weren't born into has to be wrong, despite the evidence. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP... the rightwing swoon over the tax bill reveals how completely those credentialed conservatives who once declared themselves "NeverTrump" have gone right past WhateverTrump into 4EverTrump. This has been obvious to me for a long time, and in the run-up to the tax bill I was frankly disheartened to see mainstream media outlets like the AP running heds like "For Trump and Ryan, a tortured relationship grows more so." Unless by "tortured" they mean Ryan and Trump like to get together and watch dark-skinned detainees doing stress positions at black sites,  this is ridiculous: As the old saying (one of many I have bequeathed to Barlett's) goes, he signs their bills and they let him grift. The loyalty this has engendered between their houses makes their relationship indistinguishable from any other political alliance, except this one is probably stronger than most, as it earns both parties an enormous amount of cash.

The rest of the commentariat are slow to catch up. The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt has a column called "The conservative resistance: the rightwingers who stood up to Trump," in which he scrapes up a few Republican resisters that Sam Tanenhaus missed, such as Jeff Flake -- but he fails to mention that while Flake's pretty good at talking the talk, he's not so great at walking the walk. And I'm willing to bet Gabbatt started his Susan Collins section before the final tax bill vote, necessitating the hilarious late addition, "like many on this list, Collins’ opposition to Trump has not been consistent."

Sunday, December 24, 2017


Let not the MAGA choads and their attempts to turn "Merry Christmas" into a war cry for assholes dismay you. Christmas is not a sack dance of wealth and power, and could never be. It is rather a call to all mankind to celebrate the birth of a child of poor and weary travelers who yet became Lord of lords. You can take that literally, or as a bit of poetry to remind you that though the fat thugs and their manicured grifters always expect the last word (and may seem to have gotten it, in those short stretches our attention-deficient media morons mistake for eternity), in time they are humbled, and the humble exalted -- or, as Alex Chilton sang in my favorite hymn, the wrong shall fail and the right prevail.

In the shortest term, in this very moment, you, my friends, who have a care for the world beyond yourselves and feel the lash of injustice even when it falls on others -- wheresoever you touch the world or embrace your fellow man, you hold the true gifts of life.

(Column will be up on Tuesday. Tidings of comfort and joy.)