Thursday, March 01, 2018


It's hard to rank the members of Trump's cabinet for awfulness. Rex Tillerson might seem just ineffectual, spalshing around in his whirpool bath of bullshit ("Rex Tillerson May Be Finally Settling in at the State Department," wrote The National Interest -- on February 26, 2018), but by surrendering the histroic purview of his office to the President, who is just ignorant, and proxies like John Bolton, who want war with North Korea, he may be doing the most damage. On the other hand, Ryan Zinke's active destruction of the environment is going to be pretty hard to undo.

But don't sleep on Ben Carson, who has done fuck-all as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development except cut his department's budget, but whose tenure I think also serves a more sininster purpose.

We only hear about Carson anymore when yet another story about his insane mismanagement of the department comes out. Recently the HUD inspector general began looking into allegations that Carson's son, who runs a private equity company, was leaning on people with business before the department -- something by which no one who will be suprised if they read Alec MacGillis' story on Carson in New York magazine last August ("I watched with some amazement as the younger Carson, clad in tinted aviator shades, circulated among those seeking his father’s attention..."). And we've all heard about his bitching that his furniture wasn't grand enough and firing an underling allegedly because she wouldn't help him spend more than he was allowed on it; this has led to a number of embarrassing stories like "See HUD's $31,000 mahogany dining set."

It has not been lost on me that the most prominent African-American members of Trump's presidential retinue have been individuals likely to bomb in their respective positions: Omarosa Manigault, a contestant on Trump's TV game show before becoming Public Liaison comms director, and Carson who, after distinguishing himself as a surgeon, was the most buffoonish of the 2016 Presidential contenders -- in fact during the campaign Trump made fun of the ridiculous autobiographical stories Carson told on the trail to cover his inability to grasp public policy on even the simplest level.

Manigault is out, and Carson may not be too far behind. And I wonder if maybe Trump wasn't planning on this all along. His former "Apprentice" had at least a journalism degree and Washington experience to recommend her -- but her better known showbiz celebrity left her vulnerable to the impression that her appointment was unserious. When she was fired, the reason Trump obviously leaked to the press was "improperly using the official White House car service." Come on. I used to be a dispatcher; misusing car vouchers is something for which messengers get fired, not executives -- let alone White House executives.

All Trump appointees are by definition shit, but being shit is only one of the qualifications. Admittedly it's important, because it cements their loyalty to this criminal administration; they all realize honorable people won't work with them, and so will do anything to keep this golden opportunity (though it seems Jeff Sessions, of all people, may be losing patience).

But they also have to have some other utility. Former HHS Secretary Tom Price, for example, was hired because he could be counted on to fuck over Obamacare and to step aside and gesture invitingly toward Medicare and Medicaid as Congress came to kill them; that he was also a greedy pig meant he could be counted on, but his greed got so obvious he was making it look bad and Trump replaced him with someone who, more like Tillerson, would wreck the country on behalf of a specific corporate sponsor rather than just for himself, and thus give an impression of responsibility to something, even if it wasn't the United States.

Now, I know they've fired or pushed to resign dozens of white people, but I doubt that when those worthies were shot out of the airlock, Trump's base thought, "reckon white people can't handle the big jobs." Carson and Manigault represent the Administration's half-assed attempt to confuse white people who don't see (or don't care about, or actually approve of) the President's obvious racism. When Carson goes, however, I think I know how they'll take it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the granddaughter of French literal fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen, spoke at CPAC last week, and Rod Dreher went gaga for her. Yet he has trouble admitting that she's pretty much what you'd expect National Front royalty to be -- he keeps saying he just doesn't know enough, though he really likes her! I think there’s more than one reason for that.

Calling Le Pen's CPAC speech "dynamic," Dreher swooned, "she went on to condemn euthanasia, gender theory, and transhumanism." She even quoted Mahler! "Continental conservatives in the Le Pen mold are more traditionalist, focusing on natural law, religion, and culture," Dreher explained approvingly.

But he wanted it made clear: "To the extent that she represents his racist, anti-Semitic views, Marion ought to be ashamed," said Dreher later. Still,  he said, "despite having read Bill Wirtz’s TAC piece about her, it is not clear to me what she believes on race and Judaism." Wirtz's piece notes that in 2016 Le Pen's National Front "ran on banning the kippah in public places" -- though he did not cite, possibly because he could not find, Mademoiselle Le Pen explicitly affirming (or, for that matter, denying) her party's position.

"I prefer the flawed attempt of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen to address from the traditionalist right the most pressing problems of our time to the doubling down on the same tired dogmas of the US conservative establishment," said Dreher. Again, he really, really wanted it known that he abjured her grandfather -- "To be clear — pay attention here — Jean-Marie Le Pen is an actual fascist, an anti-Semite, and a disgrace" -- and said elsewhere that he also doesn't like "her secular nationalist aunt Marine, whom I find unappealing" (though he was much more sympathetic to her when she ran for the French Presidency).

And, to make his gutless equivocation even more obnoxious, he added, "Do not take me as endorsing Marion Maréchal-Le Pen! I honestly don’t know enough about her to do such a thing, and I certainly condemn the racism and anti-Semitism of her grandfather — and, if she espouses it, then her own racism and anti-Semitism."

But he kept on about her. In another post contemptuously dismissing Mona Charen and other anti-Trump and anti-Le Pen conservatives as dainty "Principled Conservatives," Dreher wrote, "Marion Maréchal-Le Pen’s [CPAC] speech can only sound like blood-and-soil nationalism to Principled Conservative ears... whatever the sins of Marion Maréchal-Le Pen and her family, Anglo-American conservatism has something important to learn from the European conservative tradition, and needs to think about it, does not make one an anti-Semite or a blood-and-soil nationalist."

Among other things, Le Pen said at CPAC, "We do not want this atomized world of individuals without gender, without mother, without father, without nation" -- a quote that was promoted on Twitter by the straight-up Nazi Defend Evropa. In fact, Defend Evropa was altogether more forthright about what Le Pen was about and why they liked her than Dreher in their own coverage of the speech:
Marion talked about pride, guilt, atomization of society, identity, enrootment to the land, peoples, legacy, survival of nations, family and many more. A beautiful speech, well received from the American public. The tide is turning, Le Pen reminded us, the Nationalists, why we should fight. And we will fight!
DU also cheered when Le Pen condemned the European Union as "an ideology without land, without people, without roots, without soul, and without civilization." She didn't mention blood, though, so Dreher's still in the clear.

And that's what his hard sell with soft details is all about. Dreher's always tergiversating about Trump -- saying he dislikes his "vulgar" style, but implying that maybe there's something valid about his movement; doesn't he attack the same people Dreher reflexively hates, after all? -- and he does something similarly sneaky with Le Pen, in fact, overtly associating Trump with Le Pen and not in a negative way:
The fact that we have Trump has a lot to do with the failures of establishment conservatives — and they still don’t seem to have any real idea why they failed. Is it really the case that the only reason people like Trump and Le Pen find traction on the right is racism and bigotry? The only reason?
You see what he's doing -- he's saying sure, maybe there's a leeedle bit of racism there, and maybe you find it disturbing -- but look, she represents a new kind of conservatism: She doesn't like trans people, either! And if that doesn't turn you on, she's also a nationalist ("Let me be clear here: I’m not offended when I hear President Trump say America first… I want France first for the French people!"). And if that doesn't do it for you... well, like he said, he's not sure what she really believes, we shouldn't judge her by her grandfather, and wasn't that speech stirring...

For her own part Mademoiselle Le Pen makes a valiant effort in her public appearances to keep the potentially less attractive features of National Front ideology quiet, but sometimes the mask slips -- as when The Guardian asked her about mixed marriages and she said, "I'm not against it... For me, marriage is a very personal choice. The only thing I'd say is that I know, from people who've told me firsthand, that sadly mixed marriages can be a bit conflicted on everyday issues. For instance, the naming of children – Muslims need children to take Muslim names, often they want women to convert to Islam..."

I'm sure Dreher knows, as it is not (yet) Le Pen's business to, how something like that might go over in the States -- like gangbusters with the Trump base, perhaps, but not so well with the more soap-and-toothpaste-involved middle Americans. But he also knows that you might could sneak it over the plate if you keep it vague and, if someone smells a rat, make sure to protest that you don't approve of the old version of this exciting new conservatism, from which the new thing is, in some ineffable way, just different. There'll be plenty of time to sort out the details later -- when it's too late.

Monday, February 26, 2018


...about the Stoneman Douglas High kids, the NRA boycott, and the panic these have engendered among the people of the gun.

I will add that it's easy to see why so many wingnuts have refocused their attention on the deputy who failed to enter the school while the shooting was going on. Among the most secure safe spaces of conservative snowflakes is the comforting notion, supported by a million TV and movie action sequences, that in a pinch they'd be heroes, dodging bullets like Neo and kicking ass like Jack Ryan, and if some guy doesn't live up to that standard, that's nothing to sympathize with or even forebear to judge because in their dreams they've already shown themselves to be better men. That's why Trump made the ridiculous claim today that he'd have burst in on the gunplay himself; he knows the armchair commandos will relate to his delusion, and welcome him into their fantasy Seal Team Six.

Thursday, February 22, 2018


The latest NRA charmless offensive shows how bad the situation is. When the NRA found its normal post-massacre duck-and-cover routine -- that is, waiting until our attention was drawn away from the latest multiple-casualty Second-Amendment demonstration -- had left it vulnerable to the protests of telegenic survivors, they immediately went on offense, with Wayne LaPierre babbling about socialists and Dana Loesch lying at top speed at the Parkland town hall. If you want to know why LaPierre and Loesch chose not to take a more reasonable and conciliatory approach with the kids in the wake of the mass gun murder they'd just suffered through, dismiss from your mind the absurd idea that it's the natural product of principled advocacy; ideas that are right don't need to be defended with bullying and bullshit. The NRA's PR makes clear that they are not peddling an Amendment or a specific interpretation thereof so much as the fear of violation and the thrill of violence.

That's why they came hard -- not because they're tough, and certainly not because they're right, but because they're full of shit. And they count on their belligerence to convince Americans they're fighting for them, rather than fighting to keep up the nice livelihood gun manufacturers have bestowed upon them, and against "socialists" and other ooga-booga rather than against the young citizens who have seen the effect of their depravity up close and want it stopped.

Too many liberals seem to think shame or conscience is going to stop these guys. No. They have to be repudiated decisively at the ballot box and throughout public life. If they aren't, things will only get worse.

Depressing, isn't it? Thank God we've got Rod Dreher for lulz! Right out of the gate God's Gastronome gives us a striking comparison:
I get as annoyed with right-wing Second Amendment absolutists who insist that any attempt to control guns will lead to a civil liberties apocalypse as I do with left-wing First Amendment absolutists who hold that any attempt to control access to pornography is welcoming Big Brother.
You'll get my porn when you pry it from my warm, sticky hands, Dreher! Porn, or what passes for porn at the BenOp compound, turns out to be much on Dreher's mind: After suggesting school shootings are caused by kids going to large schools -- as opposed to the one-room schoolhouse where Rod's ancestors l'arned to read and cipher -- he suggests a connection to stories in magazines like The Lily and Teen Vogue "pushing polyamory," ass-fucking, ice cream douches and vibrators -- "the most tender, intimate expressions of love between a man and a woman, reduced to bestial gestures," preaches Rod; "...It’s almost as if the dominant culture and its institutions are radically dehumanizing teenagers, and are mystified as to why some of those teenagers don’t see others as human beings worthy of respect and care."

I wonder what's the mechanism of action for this -- do the antisocial young men who comprise the majority of mass murderers get corrupted by reading Teen Vogue and Vulture? Or do they somehow meet the sort of big-city gals who read these publications, perhaps at potential-mass-murderer mixers, and become intoxicated and corrupted by their intimate Ben & Jerry's scent?

As usual, the Dreher "reader" "letter" is the highlight:
UPDATE: Reader Matt in VA writes:
I am surprised that you don’t draw out the parallel between school shootings and another common theme on this blog — early-onset transgenderism.
The easy availability of machine guns can't be the problem; otherwise why would they be so much more scared by the monsters under their beds?

UPDATE. Who could have suspected that Rod would have a woody for third-generation French fascist Marion Maréchal Le Pen? She speaks French and hates homosexuals -- il se pâme! ["Lady Marmalade" plays] Voulez-vous détester les Noirs (ce soir)?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


...since sometime this afternoon, but I didn't have time to announce -- some idiots wanted me to work! Me, work! Ah ha ha! --  so apologies. Anyway it's about Black Panther rightwing reax and o my brothers, it's a festival of lame and I do not mean lah-MAY.

Among the many outtakes, I had to drop the VDare entry because, shit, when so many mainstream conservatives are going I'M NOT RACIST BUT it seemed a little superfluous. But just in case you were wondering, VD's Paul Kersey guessed the film “will surpass $200 million, as black identity and Main Stream Media cheerleading are creating a formidable marketing combination” — you know how suggestible those people are.  But he found “disturbing” that “the film is telling blacks that the problems of Africans in the West and in Africa is simply the fault of white people,” and worried that “the hunger by blacks to be portrayed as ‘kings’ who can defeat the hated whites is driving much of the appeal of this film” would lure them into the embrace of villain Killmonger’s plan to use Wakanda's “advanced technology to arm black revolutionaries to wage a war on white people worldwide."  Then all ooga-booga would break loose!

The sad part is, you really don't have to go to the fever swamps for this kind of thing -- remember when Joe Klein predicted black people would riot when Do The Right Thing opened in 1989?

Sunday, February 18, 2018


• The Village Voice column is delayed by the holiday til Tuesday. As part of my research I went to see Black Panther. I've told you good people before -- for example, back in 2009 when people were talking about The Dark Knight as a serious movie -- that I don't relate to the comic-book flicks that even some of my most intelligent friends enjoy. In fact, I find them idiotic. There may be a Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies, but as far as I'm concerned comic-book movies don't even have a Dances with Wolves. (Exceptions, or rather excuses: Ghost World, which I revere, is [clears throat] based on a graphic novel -- I know, that's like Lisa Loopner calling The Way We Were "a film not a movie" -- and Tim Burton's brutal Batman Returns is a Batman movie like Godard's Weekend is a road picture.) I can't even relate to those Lord of the Rings pictures. Magic kingdoms don't send me. My nerdness does not that way tend.

Black Panther is no exception. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it; in fact once I got used to the unfamiliar sensation of having my eyes and ears pummeled while prone in a multiplex barcalounger,  it was a treat. The Afrocentric threads and sets are supercool, I am definitely down with the Praetorian Guard of tough bald chicks (the baddest-assed of whom is a general), and I'm happy for anyone who gets an ethnocentric or any other kind of thrill from it.

But I couldn't take it any more more seriously than I did Kokumo and Pazuzu in Exorcist II: The Heretic. I've never seen a made-up ancient tradition that wasn't at least slightly ridiculous (including the "real" ones we all grew up with). When the Wakandans were shown cheering T'Challa at his coronation in mountain niches going up hundreds of feet, all I could think of were Hummel figurines in a specialty display, or It's a Small World at Disneyland.

Also, I have to say that while I see why T'Challa had to defeat Killmonger, the latter had a good enough argument; why shouldn't Wakanda help liberate black folk around the world? History certainly supports W'Kabi's prediction that, once Whiteyworld got a whiff of their secret Vibranium stash, they'd do as they have always done with Africans. The Wakandan isolationist ethos is about protecting Wakandans; I see nothing in it about the brotherhood of man. It's nice T'Challa and Shuri are sufficiently guilt-tripped by it all to go to Oakland and start starship midnight basketball, but if they'd decided to go the Black Planet route instead I think it would have been more interesting.

But like I said, it's a comic book movie, and it was enough that it moved and looked good. And if I'm sympathetic toward Killmonger it may be in part because Michael B. Jordan, in a cast full of winners, steals the plum. Admittedly he has the advantage of being able to speak modern argot in a movie full of pseudo-Royal-African, and everyone else's jokes are corny enough that lines like "'Hey, Auntie" bring the house down. But modern, too, is the monster of reaction to injustice that Jordan makes of Killmonger, and though his viciousness made me want him defeated, as it was meant to, when he said at the point of dying that he wished to be buried in the ocean like his ancestors who "knew death was better than bondage," I wept. That, I took seriously.

• Also, returning to the Oscar derby I started with The Post, Get Out, and Dunkirk, I saw Lady Bird. Story: Christine, who prefers to be called by the fanciful eponym because I guess it will make a good title someday, is a driven though perhaps not exceptionally bright girl attending a Catholic school her parents can barely afford who wants to get out of her third-tier city (the same one auteur Greta Gerwig grew up in, what a coincidence) and make it big in New York — come back, reader! I swear it’s not bad! Along the way she does a lot of growing up — Reader? Hello?

Ha okay, leave if you want, but first let me tell you why it’s worth a look: Lady Bird and the other characters reveal themselves quickly (wanting-more daughter, angry-loving mother, becalmed-depressed dad, et alia) and, I'm forced to say, none of them shows much in the way of hidden depths. Nor are they full of surprises  -- in fact the characters usually do things you should have seen coming a mile away. But I stayed interested and rooted for them throughout. I think that's because Gerwig and her actors understood that, first, when characters are closely observed, the audience will notice that, and think them worth watching. (Gerwig even has one of Lady Bird's teachers mention the similarity between love and attention. If that doesn't do it for you, the really-real performances of Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, and Tracy Letts should.) Also, they knew that the characters don't have to surprise us to be worthy of our attention;  they just have to really try to be — what’s that phrase Mom uses? — the best version of themselves they can be. Sometimes just that struggle alone is worth watching.

I especially felt it in every scene involving Lady Bird and her best friend (Beanie Feldstein -- remember the name), a more obviously talented but also more ungainly girl whom she betrays, in a slightly ridiculous high-school way, before deciding to ditch her new cool friends and take her to the prom with her. I know, ick, after-school special, right? But when they went from crying in each other's arms to laughing with their mouths full of cheese and crackers because they couldn't believe they finished it all, I loved them. Later on, when they were mooning over what they would be doing next summer, they bored me. But I'll remember the cheese and crackers for a long time.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


Another day, another bunch of dead kids, and Republicans reliably rush to aid and comfort the NRA. At National Review we have yet to hear Charles C.W. Cooke's traditional post-slaughter sermon about how you cahn't ban assault weapons, it's in the cawn-stuh-tyu-shun, but we have had proposed alternative solutions from other staffers such as David French:
Rather than tweet impotently, I’ve armed myself to protect my family and my neighbors; in my past role as a member of a school board, I’ve worked to better secure my kids’ school; and I’ve vowed that if — God forbid — I ever see evidence or warning signs of the darkness of a killer’s heart, I’ll have the courage to seek the intervention that can save lives.
That is to say: He bought more guns, and fantasized about what he'd do if he ever saw someone suspicious. That's usually the beginning of a success story, alright.

French's colleague Robert VerBruggen has a simpler solution: "Arm Teachers." I don't recall him suggesting that we arm preachers after the church shoot-em-up in Sutherland Springs last November, but maybe his condition has only recently advanced to this stage. VerBruggen elaborates:
[Training is] something a teacher could easily accomplish during summer vacation, even if schools insisted on rigorous training.
And why would they? Clearly any gun-wielding amateur marksman will be able to quickly take out a heavily armed mass murderer, and avoid shooting the wrong people or themselves in a panic -- they must be superhuman or else why would we pay them so generously?

If this sounds more like a recipe for Roddy McDowall in Class of 1984 than a sane society, remember that a sane society is the opposite of what they want: This is why they were so enraged to see New York City's crime drop after years of strict gun control, and why they're so eager to inject guns into polities that have benefited from their exclusion -- they want to make every part of America as hair-trigger gun-crazy as Fritters, Alabama, because that's how you breed Republicans.

UPDATE. Regarding French's I'll-know-one-when-I-see-one, Patrick Blanchfield makes a good point:

I wonder who David French and guys like him are likely to pre-cognize as a poison-hearted potential killer?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Much has been made today of Megan McArdle’s promotion to the Washington Post. (I thought the Times was more likely to take her, but one “Liberal Media” outfit is just as good as another.) There have been some good new considerations of her nightmarish career, and renewed interest in old ones.

These get the broad outlines well enough — her libertarian lack of concern for people unlike herself (recently epitomized by her amazing column on the Grenfell Tower tragedy), her impressive imperviousness to alternate points of view — the elements, that is, that made her rise inevitable.  But these miss some of the shadings, the characteristics that make characters, as Forster had it, round rather than flat. That job needs more time to do properly than I have at present, but I can perhaps put a blush on the marble.

For one thing, McArdle likes to play the serious centrist, which position somehow always turns out to be right wing; for example, she has portrayed herself in the climate-change debate as a “lukewarmist,” that is, someone who believes climate science is “guesswork” and is darn sick of those slovenly radicals who practice it calling her a “denialist.” Being serious-centrist, she can admit, okay, there’s  “a small chance of climate catastrophe” — comparable to that of the earth being destroyed by an asteroid — and as a way of addressing it bids her followers read a nine-part essay by a guy who writes for Watts Up With That. There, now -- isn't that even-handed?

When climate scientists laughed her off for this, she declared them adherents to the “hypothesis” that “name calling will advance the cause,” rather than experts who found her self-satisfied ignorance ridiculous. (She really hates to be laughed at, which, given how frequently she has proven dunkworthy, may constitute the only genuine hardship she has ever experienced.)

McArdle is a great advocate of the Marriage Makes You Rich philosophy, which she has claimed liberals wouldn’t admit because they're jealous of the happily married. She has also said that people should get married as soon in life as possible — notwithstanding that McArdle married in her late 30s. No, she didn’t think she made a mistake -- come on, now! -- but —
Obviously, you can choose not to settle. I did. But I’ll be honest: that decision is a lot scarier at 33 than it would have been a decade earlier.
— there are rules for peons, and there are rules for McArdle.

Generally, on the subject of the poor and money, she is given to statements like, “it's all too common for well-meaning middle class people to think that if the poor just had the same stuff we do, they wouldn't be poor any more…” (Put it this way: were you to tell her the famous Hemingway-Fitzgerald story about the rich being very different from you and me, she wouldn’t get the joke.)

McArdle has supported this what's-money-got-to-do-with-poverty POV by telling readers about a girl she knew who, even though she “grew up in a middle class home which would happily have paid for college,” wound up “on the Section 8 waiting list,” which seemed to prove to her that helping is futile — “more money… would solve the sort of problems that stem from a simple lack of money. But it would not turn [the poor] into different people.” That's what the poor need -- not money, but personal transformation, like you get from a yoga weekend. If you disagreed with her and still wanted to shunt more of America’s resources to these waste-cases, well, you were just “imagining away their humanity, and replacing it with an automaton,” which is just like a liberal.

More than she likes anything — except, perhaps, her kitchen accessories, and power — McArdle hates liberals, particularly the unreasonable hippies who told her she was wrong about the Iraq War and were so smug about it and made her so mad that she quit the internet for a brief while.  Thus, in almost every argument she makes, you can see her trying to Own the Libs, as the kids say; even when it comes to rainbow-flavored positions that young and groovy conservatives are allowed to have, like gay marriage not being the end of the world, McArdle is compelled to portray them as a comeuppance to liberals: now that homosexuals were getting hitched, she said, “the forces of bourgeois repression have won”:
That's right, I said it: this is a landmark victory for the forces of staid, bourgeois sexual morality. Once gays can marry, they'll be expected to marry. And to buy sensible, boring cars that are good for car seats. 
That’ll show you liberal-tines! Then she went back into her Marriage Makes You Rich routine (“the disastrous collapse of marriage outside the elite”) and again pushed early marriage, graciously adding “I married at 37 myself, so I'm not judging, here. But if we want childbearing to take place inside marriage” blah blah blah.

Speaking of childbearing, which she has also not personally performed, she was annoyed that Democrats wanted to include contraceptive coverage in Obamacare, and explained her feeling thus: “according to the reasoning… I am being denied something every time my employer refuses to buy it for me: cars, homes, Hummel collectible figurines.” Things McArdle doesn’t need are by definition luxuries.

On race, she is capable of writing something like this
I really don't want this post to come out as "See--black people don't understand how hard white people have it!" Rather, I'm continuing what I tried to say in this post: that both communities, because they have a less than perfect understanding of the others' experience, are more suspicious of each other than they need to be.
And if you’re gasfaced over that, let us step back a few grafs:
I think it's safe to assume that minorities and women know more about life in the dominant group than the reverse--if for no other reason than the ways that media centers around their experience. But that can be tricky. Have you ever noticed how Europeans think they know way more about life in America than they actually do, because they watch our television and movies?
You’ve seen all the Vince Vaughn movies, my black friend, but you’ve never been to me!

But soft, the glow-worm shows the matin to be near; this should give you noobs some idea of what to expect. Look out below!


There have been plenty of rightwing tantrums lately over press coverage of the North Korean presence at the Olympics, but Ben Domenech’s takes the cake:
Dear America: Your News Media Absolutely Hates You
It’d be nice to say that American media doesn’t hate this country. It’d be nice to claim that the American press, while maintaining objectivity and balancing against bias, is still inherently American – that they are patriots who love this country even as they report on its defects... 
But we cannot say these things when the American media, time and again, illustrates its utter hatred for the nation and its people in those newspapers and on television. Having judged the American project kaput after the election of Donald Trump, they are now stooping to the level of defending the North Koreans – perhaps the most brutal and heinous regime in the world today – thanks to some side-eye from its minister of propaganda, the sister of Kim Jong Un. If the headlines are to be believed, “North Korea heading for diplomacy gold medal at Olympics” is the story American media want to tell about this moment.
The stories Domenech cites are ordinary reported pieces describing a diplomatic push by the North Koreans at the Olympics being held in South Korea. One such story from CNN quotes a "senior diplomatic source" disparaging Mike Pence's show of protest at the Olympic reviewing stand; this Domenech describes as "15 year veteran reporter at CNN, Will Ripley, just straight up delivering North Korean propaganda whole cloth to an American audience, simply because it criticizes the Trump administration."

Domenech doesn't say anything bad about the senior diplomatic source, perhaps because he's afraid it'll turn out to be John Kelly or some other rightwing made man, and he'd get in trouble.

I'm very old and can remember when we used to make fun of the Soviet media for reflexively slurring America as a hellhole and its allies as running dogs and lackeys. We had room to talk, of course, because we had a free press and, liberal or conservative, we were proud of that. Domenech has a different feeling about it, obviously, and would prefer to patriotize the press so that any description of activities involving countries hostile to the U.S., even innocuous soft diplomacy at the Olympics, be screened by the Committee for inappropriate tone and unflattering realities.

It’s long been clear that Trump’s ultimate goal is to delegitimize all press outlets not devoted to his praise, and painting them as unpatriotic for telling the truth is part of the strategy. Here’s hoping the clumsiness of operatives like Domenech, and the memory of the kind of country we used to be, will keep him from succeeding.

Monday, February 12, 2018


...about the wife-beating charges at the White House and the awkward defenses offered -- in the abstract and the specific -- by our conservative brethren.

These things tend to run long so I had to cut a few bits -- like this interesting theory at The Future of Capitalism: after some bullshit about media "narratives," the unnamed author (the site is run by Ira Stoll so it may be him) says,
But there's a third possible narrative that the Porter story might fit into — one that I haven't yet seen written about. That is the story of a too-powerful and potentially abusive FBI at war with a White House that is trying to rein it in.
...The Porter domestic violence history or allegations (he was never convicted or charged with any crime, so far as I can tell) surfaced as part of the extensive background investigation that the FBI conducts on anyone seeking classified clearance or a sensitive government job...
By this means the FBI gets "its own files of what the Russians call kompromat," FoC says, so maybe the feds leaked this particular story to the Daily Mail "as the bureau's way of pushing back against the release of the Nunes memo":
In essence, the FBI would have been sending the message to Trump, "okay, you want to air our dirty laundry in public, be careful, Mr. President, because we can play that game, too, and you will wind up getting burned."

It's just a theory. Maybe there's another explanation. But the timing is odd.
"The timing is odd"? This administration has a scandal every couple of days. If they're timing it, we ought to applaud whoever's serving as traffic director. With this bunch, isn't massive mendacity and incompetence the Occam's-Razor alternative?

Thursday, February 08, 2018


It's nice to find a newish band you kinda like

•   Last week Megan McArdle shared with the world her 12-point secret to happiness which somehow did not contain "get paid a lot to write terrible shit." Most of it was about being nice to people -- not peons, just those near and dear, and perhaps donors -- and one item was "save 25 percent of your income," which led to her being smacked around by people who understood that saving 25 percent of one's income may be easy for her, but hard for low earners who did not, as McArdle did, come from moneyed professionals. This led to a McArdle Twitter tirade about how she had to eat ramen for a while and how the left was mean to her. Later she wrote about how rent control would be very bad for rents, as if rents could get any goddamn worse. All this reminded me, not only of how terrible McArdle is, but how fucked out conservatism is in general -- that is, that sliver of conservatism not devoted to Trumpian nationalism, the kind that six-figure columnists have to push. Increasingly our citizens are taking a second look at socialism, rent control, single payer etc. because uncontrolled Reagan-style capitalism has obviously fucked us over, and all its handmaidens like McArdle can do is groan NOOOOO DOOON'T IT WILL BE VENEZUELLLAAA with a flashlight under their chins and talk bootstrap penny-saved-is-a-penny-earned gush. What market is there for that, besides New York Times managing editors? At least the full-on Trumpkins offer the pleasure of unreasoning hate. Yet still they heap money on her and I'm wearing a cardboard belt! Sigh, I am too childish-foolish for this world.

•   Further proof that conservatism is fucked out: Not one but two idiotic National Review columns on how it's great to pray to Jesus for your football team to win. "Yes, God Cares about Football" by -- who else? -- David French is excruciating; French starts by basically admitting that there's no reason to talk about this -- there's been no recent backlash against God-bothering footballers for him to defend against ("Perhaps event militant atheists were grateful to see the Patriots lose") -- but he figures he'll go ahead and homilize anyway, and oh how I'd like to know what great preachers like John Donne would make of this:
Moreover, there’s something specific about football — distinct from other sports — that can concentrate a person’s faith. Yes, football is more religious in part because of its southern strongholds (the South is more religious). Yes, football is more religious in part because it’s disproportionately black (African Americans are more religious). But I’d also posit that something else is in play: keen awareness of human fragility...
So football is God's Favorite Sport, as opposed to basketball -- which, French has previously told us, is too "clustered in progressive urban centers" (pushes in nose, pushes out lower lip and tongue) for His taste. What could be worse? Well, French actually inspired colleague Nicholas Frankovich to chime in, and Frankovich manages to work in the paranoia French was too embarrassed to affect:
The question [Is it appropriate to pray for victory in sports?] embarrasses believers who are anxious to be taken seriously in public and goes to the heart of why they feel that anxiety to begin with. In theory, they still enjoy freedom of religion in the public square, but the social reality is that what they enjoy is the freedom to worship in private. Under the law, they are free to speak as if those parts of their religion that clash with materialism were true, but they risk some loss of social stature and credibility among peers when they exercise that right. Their problem in this regard is not legal or political. It’s social, cultural, and intellectual...
The "freedom to worship in private" bit is actually related to a fundamentalist trope about how Godless liberals are trying to trick believers into being grateful they can go to the church of their choice when real freedom means raving and snake-handling in public. Only, in this case, the allegedly proscribed conduct is praying for Jesus to cover the spread. Man, why do these Christians even stay in this country if they don't like it here?

• I don't commend our comments section enough, so I will do so now, with special attention to commenter keta's own version of McArdle's 12 Steps. Sample: "If you're going to praise someone, lay it on thick. Nobody ever died thinking, 'geez, I wish I hadn't been such an obnoxious phony suck-up without an ounce of integrity in my entire being.' Get that nose up in there." But really, they're all winners.

• Aha, this again: "San Francisco Bay Area Experiences Mass Exodus Of Residents," reports a local CBS News outlet. The proof points are a study from the kind of think tank that has David Brooks do their keynote address; some lady from San Jose who's moving to Tennessee to escape SJ's "sanctuary city status"; and "Operators of a San Jose U-Haul business" who "say one of their biggest problems is getting its rental moving vans back because so many are on a one-way ticket out of town." This of course is being repeated credulously by wingnuts ("IT’S OFFICIAL: There’s a mass exodus happening in San Francisco"). But I've seen this sort of "Har everyone's leaving the blue cities" yak before -- sometimes even with moving company stats!-- yet San Francisco is still growing, as are other big cities, because nobody wants to live out in Bumfuck if they can help it. Part of the Trump strategy is to make sure fewer Americans can help it, of course, and also to strip wealth from the cities and make them less attractive, because keeping people stuck out in the great land of meth and assault weapons helps turn them angry and crazy enough to vote Republican. But that could take years to move the needle if it happens at all. Meantime they can just go on telling themselves that cities are expensive and crowded because no one wants to live in them -- which contradicts their alleged economic beliefs but, as we just saw with the budget bill, they don't really believe that shit anyway.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018


Among the many similarities between the Trump people and the more overt alt-right is their common impulse to cover their more repulsive sentiments as jokes. Look at Trump's recent declaration that Democrats who didn't applaud him at the State of the Union might be traitors, and his spokesman Hogan Gidley's assurance that Trump was -- obvs! -- just kidding. The brethren took the hint; Dan McLaughlin of National Review portrays Trump's statement, unimaginable from any previous President, as gentle if totalitarian ribbing -- "the subversive, somewhat cleansing but ultimately corrosive part of Trump’s brand of political performance art," McLaughlin puts it, trying as best his shitty prose skills can manage to soften the "corrosive" part with an invocation of a Lenny Bruce for Bigots -- and asks the libs Are You Triggered:
...if you watch the actual video, you can see the flippancy here. Trump is plainly not being serious about treason – he’s playing this for laughs, and getting them – and liberals going to DEFCON 1 as if he is are yet again proving how little interest they have in distinguishing between tyranny and mere boorishness. The loss of perspective is just wearying to watch at this point.
I can imagine McLaughlin at the computer, musing: Am I wearied by the loss of perspective or amused by it? I assume he eventually flipped a coin.

This treason-amirite stuff is of a piece with other apparently serious and horrific Trump comments that his factota later disown as gags -- like asking Russia to steal Hillary Clinton's emails -- or that Trump himself laughs through, either to cover the violence or because he genuinely finds it funny, as when he light-heartedly told cops to smash suspects' heads into car doors.

And it really reminds me of the trollery of alt-right icons like Milo Yiannopoulos, a professional asshole who pretends, semi-successfully, that his slurs are a type of stand-up, and such elaborate kidding-not-kidding as the Chuck Johnson crowd claiming the OK sign as a white power symbol, then denying they did it.

I'm not sure to what extent these alt-right guys get encouragement from Trump,  or whether their outrages, fed to Trump in his morning memo, give him encouragement (though I'm pretty sure Trump's Me/Not Me development is sufficient retarded that, if he likes something, he assumes it originated with him). But the real meaningful resemblance between Trumpism and the alt-right isn't their compatible bigotry and viciousness; it's in their similarly bland insistence that it's all just a joke that you'd be a Fool and a Chump and Triggered to take seriously (unless you're people like the Kochs and DeVoses who have big money to promote it, in which case please take it very seriously indeed!). It's like every up-and-coming wingnut is, in the manner of Trump advisor Stephen Miller, that one friend everyone had in high school who made outrageously vicious statements and, when he didn't get laughs, told everyone to lighten up -- only expanded into a movement with millions of followers.

Now even some old-time, credentialed conservative writers are picking this up. Here's Robert VerBruggen on the recent analysis by Washington Post reporters who found, sure enough, the immigration restrictions Trump has promoted with volley after volley of racist vomit would in fact keep America whiter for a few more years -- which news, I don't think it's unreasonable to believe, would thrill a substantial portion of Trump's base, if they ever read high-falutin' big-city papers like the Post.  Now, VerBruggen is one of National Review's more obvious racists, but still paper-trained in the classic Buckley manner so he's unlikely get kicked out for being too obvious like John Derbyshire -- and now that he's caught on to the New Breed's why-so-serious style, he's got a fresh new way to cover his tracks:
Now the Washington Post has done the yeoman’s work of calculating how the [Trump] framework would affect the demographics of the nation as a whole, and you won’t believe how pale everyone will be a quarter-century from now if we let Orange Hitler have his way... 
In 2044 this country will be only about 47 to 49 percent nonwhite, instead of 50 percent. The Make America White Again plan could delay the dawn of a majority-minority United States, currently expected to arrive 26 years from now, by one to five years. In wanting to stop immigrants from bringing over chains of distant relatives with no regard for their skills, Trump is clearly motivated by nothing other than — come on now, don’t be shy to say it — racism.
Ha? Well, I didn't say he was smooth about it. But that doesn't matter. In fact, a certain clumsiness goes with the territory -- to successfully tell a joke, after all, you have to have at least a little joy in your soul that you wish to express, but to these guys, "joking" is just a formal strategy for the very serious business of realizing their will to power. I mean, look at The Daily Wire's response to Jimmy Kimmel's gag about conservatives not being smart enough to do late night TV -- "7 Conservative Talk Show Hosts Who Are Smarter Than Jimmy Kimmel." (Here's a taste: "Dennis Prager is the longtime host of The Dennis Prager Show and author of eight books on theology, history, and politics..." Stop, yer killing me!) Trying to disprove Kimmel's point with actual humor isn't even an option. Humor isn't their strong suit. But, like the Soviet functionaries who used to squeeze out Krokodil every month, they'll pretend, because they dimly perceive that it brings down the defenses of those Earth People they're trying to sucker. And, who knows, maybe it even helps them fool themselves.

Monday, February 05, 2018


...about the Nunes memo and the conservative response, which seems to class out as either a.) Democrats are traitors, or b.) It may be bad to call Democrats traitors, but Democrats are overreacting to us calling them traitors so, you see, both sides have some soul-searching to do.

I think the bothsidesing bothers me more than the overt insanity at this point -- John Sexton at Hot Air:
What we seem to have is a pitched battle in which both sides are using something akin to information warfare, i.e. dubious claims (‘This threatens national security!’, ‘He threatened retaliation!’) intended to convince the public that the other guys are acting beyond the pale.
This is fine if neither side has a legitimate claim, which is 1.) not the case here and 2.) a position more and more conservatives have started taking since they started defending the uniquely indefensible actions of Donald Trump.

Friday, February 02, 2018


I made a mistake when  I looked over my shoulder/
Cromwell was right behind me, in the driving rain...

•  Well, I’m going for the Oscar gusto again this year. I've already discussed The Post, and will now treat Dunkirk, which I just saw. I said back in 2009, when Christopher Nolan made The Dark Knight, that unlike many other A-list Hollywood moviemakers Nolan could at least shoot an action sequence so I could tell what the hell was going on. He's gotten even better since then, and Dunkirk is a great opportunity for him to show off. From the Brueghelian bombardment of big ships crowded with drowning, burning, and leaping soldiers, to the strafing of a small boat full of shushed, terrified child-soldiers, to balletic dogfights, Nolan can orchestrate mass movement and violence like nobody’s business. And he is beautifully abetted in all the craft details, especially Hoyte van Hoytema’s photography, which combines high contrast with judicious color saturation to give things a edge alternately dreamlike and nightmarish, and Hans Zimmer’s score, which underpins good old-fashioned orchestral pumping with machine sounds and postmodern shrieks to juice the tension. Though the technique is modern and even modernist, the intent is antique-heroic — most clearly seen in the rah-rah over the Little England flotilla and the stiff-upper-lipped British officer class, each beautifully represented, no coincidence, by British national treasures Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh. That’s well-earned in both history and the movie, but as an American I found it odd that there was absolutely no humor — even Noel Coward’s In Which We Serve had jokes. Still, if the unrelenting seriousness makes it hard to take Dunkirk to heart, it does increase the effect of the ending, in which filthy, bedraggled survivors awaken on the train home to windows suddenly filled with hay-brightened English sunlight. And though I do look forward to Gary Oldham’s Churchill, I can’t imagine I will be as moved by his rendition of the “Never Surrender” speech as I was by Fionn Whitehead reading it haltingly out of a newspaper on his way back home from hell.

•   On the Oscar theme, I should also mention Get Out: You've probably either seen it or heard enough about how great it is, so I don't have to go into how much I loved it. But I will say that one of the things I love about it is, though it's clearly about race, the central conceit is so powerful and expansive that, were it possible to show the film to people who had no experience or understanding of racism, they would still understand the terror, because it represents a fundamental anxiety: that of anyone entering a world that for whatever reason -- money, background, culture --  is so different from their own that they suspect and are quietly terrified by the prospect of psychic kidnapping and enslavement. Of course, even the slightest awareness of racism and its role in our national history inflames that anxiety considerably -- because it actually happened. This is not, as some morons have suggested, a politically evanescent phenomenon, but a real work of art based on the insanity of American life. 

•   OMG, here's another alleged "reader email" that God-botherer Rod Dreher is just passing along:
I’m a longtime (and recently wavering) atheist, but I have had a very devout evangelical friend of many decades. 
Suuuure you are/have.
He lives in Oregon. He couldn’t afford to send his daughter out of state for college. But he wanted her to go to college and experience the income and class benefits that had eluded him (as a GED holder) throughout his life. 
All this devout evangelical wanted was for his daughter to have the advantages he never had! But alas, to do so he had to send her to godless College, and though it was "the most milquetoast of the bunch from the political activism perspective," she had within a few months been brainwashed by Lesbo Hippies to "disavow her female gender." Perplexed pop's friend reports:
The pressure, he said, was too much, and from all angles—peers, instructors, campus organizations and media, etc. “Non-binary” was a taken-for-granted ontological reality, and to question it was bigotry. To fail to realize your own “non-binary-ness” was self-hatred rooted in bigotry.
Sure enough, by her junior year, she was a “non-identifying queer,” neither male nor female, and an activist. Their relationship is now essentially nonexistent, as she sees him to be a “Nazi"...
It's such a sad tale that I half expected it to end, "Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle. She died gender-fluid."

Thursday, February 01, 2018


Hey, I've been neglecting Jonah Goldberg
Liberals Still Love Nationalist Ideas — Just Not the Label
We can skip most of the front matter, where Goldberg attempts to engage an argument from Elizabeth Bruenig, ha ha. (I think he does this so he can later claim to have bested Bruenig and take a "victory lap.") In classic Goldbergian fashion, he picks over a trifle -- the meaning of the word "nation-state" -- before lurching in an entirely different direction:
What I find interesting about Bruenig’s argument is the idea that the concept of America is incompatible with Trumpish nationalism. I agree! But she goes farther than that. She argues that nationalism itself is incompatible with Americanism rightly understood. And I am delighted to hear it!

But what’s intriguing to me is that this would be news to progressive or “liberal” politicians and thinkers for most of the last hundred years. Wilson, both Roosevelts, and JFK were all practitioners of the sort of nationalism Bruenig says is incompatible with America.
Well, FDR did complain when Pearl Harbor was overrun by foreigners.
Foreign policy, and the jargon that comes with it, can muddy this question, given how those presidents often championed American leadership in international institutions.
Not two sentences into his argument and he's already backtracking.
But domestically, from 100 Percent Americanism to the New Deal to the New Frontier, nationalism — economic and cultural — was central to domestic liberalism. Go look at some WPA art projects if you don’t believe me.
I guess he means that when the WPA had painters do public art, administrators asked for images of "the American scene." But what else were they going to commission for the side of a post office in Yakima? Vistas of Poland?
Indeed, I always wonder why Donald Trump doesn’t say, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country!” on the stump, since it both fits his worldview perfectly and would be a brilliant way to troll liberals.
The idea of Trump asking any of his voters to make any sacrifice whatever -- unless it were to Donald Trump -- is so idiotic that it refutes Goldberg all by itself, but let us allow him to embarrass himself further: he quotes the 2012 SOTU, in which Obama referred to Seal Team Six, which (Goldberg interestingly fails to mention) took out Osama Bin Laden --
At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach.
Goldberg characterizes Obama's message thus:
Obama gushed over Seal Team Six as a model for domestic life.
He then quotes Obama further -- "This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs" -- and commentates:
As I wrote at the time, this is a disgusting inversion of what America is all about.
Yeah, teamwork and having your partner's back -- that's communism! Even worse:
An America that lives by the ethos of Seal Team Six isn’t America, it’s Sparta.
We sure dodged a bullet -- had Hillary won, our healthy male children would all be enrolled in state military training camps, as Obama dreamed. Well, I guess now that Trump has blown conservatives' cover as an allegedly intellectual movement, Goldberg's just left with old, half-remembered Buckley tropes such as Dangers of Collectivism to peddle. But I can't see who would still be worried about Americans being too unified at a time like this.

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.