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Thursday, July 19, 2018

How does this guy have a column?





Why Are So Many Political Parties Blowing Up? 
Thomas L. Friedman




Um, are they? Are there a lot of political parties "blowing up?" Seems like I would've heard about that, but okay. I'll bite. +


If you haven’t already noticed, let me be the first on your block to point it out: The big mainstream political parties across the industrialized world are all blowing up at once. It’s quite extraordinary.


Really? So there are like major political parties going out of business? That can't be right. That can't be what you mean.
Can it?


The U.S. Republican Party has blown up in all but name, going overnight from an internationalist, free-trade, deficit-hawk party to a protectionist, anti-immigrant, deficit-dove party — all to accommodate the instincts of Donald Trump and his base.


Oh, ye. The Republican Party. The Republican Party has completely blown up. They are barely able to even control the White House, Senate and House and the governorship of a mere 33 out of 50 states.


And the Republicans have always, in my lifetime anyway, been a party that vacillates between pretend deficit hawks and economic libertines depending on who is in the Oval Office. Was the GOP a party of "deficit hawks" when Ronald Reagan was tripling the national debt? Were they being hawkish on deficits when George W doubled it again? 

And are you saying that there was a time when the Republican party wasn't anti-immigrant?
Must be before my time, but I'm only 50.


As the former House Speaker John Boehner noted: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.” Actually, it’s dead, but it’s not alone in the cemetery.

Yes, he did say that. And it was bullshit when he said it and it's bullshit now when you're quoting it. Trump didn't launch a hostile takeover of the Republican Party.He is the apotheosis of 40+ years of conservative anti-intellectualism, eliminationist rhetoric and disdain for reality. Do you not see that a clear line can be drawn backwards from Trump through Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchannan, back at least to Richard Nixon?  The Republican party isn't dead. It has just emerged from it's chrysalis fully formed as the gleefully nihilistic party of destrruction, the end stage of the transformation begun when Strom Thurmond led racist southerners out of the Democratic party into the welcoming arms of the GOP.

And yet, they have control over all three branches of the federal government and a majority of the states'.  If that's what you call "blowing up," where do I sign up to be blown up?

Italy’s last election ended with its mainstream center-left getting crushed, bringing to power instead a coalition of far-left, far-right populists, whose focus ranges from guaranteeing minimum income for Italy’s 11 percent unemployed to rebuffing immigrants and the European Union.

Okay, so. . . Italy's center-left lost AN election. By that measure, you should be declaring the Democratic Party "blown up" not the Republicans. Losing one election is not the end of the world. Hell, even Tom Brady has lost a couple Super Bowls and no one is putting him out to pasture.


Britain’s Labour Party has gone from center-left to quasi-Marxist. 

Seriously?
Britain's Labour Party has rediscovered its roots. There is more excitement around Labour since the rise of Jeremy Corbin then there has been since. . . actually I don't really know UK political history that well, but Labour is poised to retake Parliament just as soon as Teresa May's government collapses. Any day now. . . tick tock. . .

I know that mainstream American political conventional wisdom states that a party moving to the left is somehow assumed to be a party committing electoral suicide, but the facts on the ground state otherwise. Moving back to the left has revitalized the Labour Party. Bernie Sanders is the most popular politician in America (although he is in danger of being eclipsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez). Medicare for All is going to be a plank in the Democrats' platform and that is generating buzz for them they haven't seen since a young Barack Obama strode on to the scene and fooled us into thinking he was a pro-labor progressive.


Anyway, this column goes on and on and on, mentioning other European parties that lost their most recent elections after having won the previous one (!) as if that is something new. No country has ever gotten disillusioned with the party in power and voted in their rivals before! The parties are imploding!!!

All of which raises the question: How does this guy have a column?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Who's Stupider?

Here's a game we haven't played in a while:




Who's Stupider?!?!?!?!?

http://starin.biz/marketing/images/Revo-GameShow-Host.pngWith your host, Art Clip!



via GIPHY

Thank you, thank you. Let's meet our first contestant!

Our first contestant is someone I stumbled onto on Twitter. He's known as "one of the religious Right’s most influential young voices," according to his own blog Please welcome Matt Walsh!

Featured Image

Okay, Matt - question number one: Name something that could make you stop loving your wife.







Um. . .
I mean. . . is that something that could plausibly happen?
And if it could, would your wife's mind and spirit be inside the lizard? Would she be able to communicate with you? Would she still be the same person, just in lizard form? Because if she was, then you should still love her. I mean, I get you wouldn't be attracted to her anymore, but. . . why is this even something you've thought about?
I mean, turning into a man, that's at least possible. With a lot of surgery and hormone therapy. But in that scenario she would definitely still be the same person, so presumably you would still love that person even if you're not sexually attracted to her anymore. Or can you only love someone who gives you a boner? Honestly, I'll have to check with the judges, but I don't hink we can give you any points for this answer.

Judges, what do you say?

Project Runway's judges


Oh, right! I forgot that this is a contest to see who is the most stupid. Points to you, Mr. Walsh!


Okay. Our next contestant comes to us from the Fox and Friends minor-league team. She's a failed candidate for office and every right-wing racist's one black friend: Star Parker!





Ms Parker - your question: Name an event that is similar to Pride Month.


Gay Pride Month has become a time for LGBTQ storm troopers to pursue political enemies. Not much different from the infamous Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany, when Nazi brown shirts took to the streets to smash windows of shops owned by Jews.




via GIPHY

gif-cringe-frightened-oh-my-omg-recoil-scared-wince-gif





Oh no.
No no no no no .
There's a limit.
We're not even going to the judges for this one.
Just no.
Get the fuck off my game show.

Okay, Matt, the game is yours to lose. Name something that is insane.






applause

God DAMN, you're good at this game Matt! That was truly stupid!


I mean, comparing a kid with a lemonade stand to an adult trying to earn a living, support himself and maybe a family, I mean wow! That is just astoundingly stupid!



But then, THEN, to do the math?

thumb image

I mean, figuring out that, in order to make what a McDonald's employee makes in a year, a kid would have to -- well, let's see. Assuming the kid is working full-time, that's 40 hours a week, let's say 50 weeks a year, that's probably comparable to the McDonald's employee's schedule, 8 hours a day, the kid would have to sell. . . 40 cups of lemonade per hour? And then to act like that wouldn't be do-able if the kid had a good location? And to pretend that the kid selling lemonade is somehow in any way relvant to the ammount of money a fast-food worker earns to pay for his rent, his car note, his utilities, his food. . . all the things the kid does not have to pay for at all? That is some weapons-grade stupid right there. See you in the tournament of champions!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

How is this not a cult?



Remember back in the early days of President Cartman's administration (like what, 10,15 years ago?) when he put out that video of the cabinet meeting where they all went around the table taking turns telling President McCheese how honored they were to be working for him?

And I figured "well, they know he's a fragile narcissist and that flattering him is a sure path to job security and if they don't kiss his ass they'll probably get fired, so I assume none of this is actually sincere." Oh, sweet, naive younger me!

Well, it turns out I was wrong, because the letter we are about to explore comes from Scott Pruitt, a man who is resigning and therefore has no professional need to stay in Cheeto Mussolini's good graces. I mean, he can't go around telling the truth about Il Douche because that would cut into his wingnut welfare opportunities, but he's got no need to suck up to Orange Julius Caesar.

And yet. . .

(via WaPo)
Here is Pruitt’s resignation letter to Trump:
Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA. 
Okay, first of all - you weren't serving Donald tRump. I mean, you weren't really serving anyone except the extraction industries and big corporate polluters, but you were SUPPOSED to be serving the American people.


Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally 


Okay, that's the first use of the word "blessed." (we'll be counting how many times some form of the verb "to bless" is used.) In most religious traditions, blessings come from God. Not from a bloated orange narcissist. So if you're telling someone that they have "blessed" you, that's getting into cult territory.


Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration. Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends.




Again you were not serving him. You were supposed to be serving us. But thanks for adding us on as an afterthought there at the end.



That is why it is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6. It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity,



Jeezus! He counts it as a "blessing" (2nd use) to serve this man "in any capacity?" Waylon Smithers doesn't kiss Mr Burns ass this grotesquely.


but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.


And there's the obligatory conservative crybaby victim-card-playing.


My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. 


There's that word again.

I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. 



Hmm, you're saying the one in charge is God's chosen one? Yeah, that's not culty at all.


 I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. 


Stop blessing each other! You're not God and neither is he! And neither of you are blessing anything, you're both a scourge on humanity. If God's providence (and by the way, the word providence means: a: divine guidance or care / bGod conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny so it's redundant to say "God's providence) but if God's providence put you and the turd reich in charge, that means God is pissed and he's punishing us.

And that's 4 "blessings" in a three paragraph resignation letter.

 Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.
Your Faithful Friend,
Scott Pruitt

gagging gag GIF


So that's a cult, right? People believe that their leader is sent by God to bless them and they are honored just to be allowed to serve the leader? How is that not a cult?


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

America Can Never be Honest With Herself



The Fourth of July got me thinking about how the United States can never be honest about ourselves. I don't know how it is in other countries, but we are so consumed with this idea that 'Merica is the greatest country in the history of the world, blah blah blah that we have never, i our 250+year history, had to have a reckoning with our past (and present) crimes. I know Germany has. Losing WWII forced them to face up to their evil deeds. Now it's illegal in Germany to deny the Holocaust. Mein Kampf is banned in Germany. (or it was, the ban may have expired). But in America, we insist on a sugar-coated, rose-colored, warped view of our own history in which everything we do is upstanding and moral and just and we are always the hero of every story.

And part of the reason probably is that we've never really lost a war. I mean the kind of loss where you have to sign terms of surrender and foreign troops occupy your land, not the Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan type of losing where you just eventually call it quits without having accomplished anything and everything goes back to normal. That's never really happened to us. Although it happened to the Confederate States, but somehow they learned nothing and still think they were in the right.

Anyway, that's probably part of it. But I think there's a deeper reason. It's one thing for, say, Japan to acknowledge the attrocities committed in China and elsewhere (although I don't know if they really do), Japan has existed as a culture since at least the 17th Century, They can face up to the times they've committed monstrous violations.
 But America has a problem in this area. If we acknowledge our great original sins, that of genocide against the Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans - to recognize these as being morally indefensible is to admit that the United States should not exist. At all. Every bit of the land upon which our nation sits was stolen from other people. If we admit that we were in the wrong, then we have to admit that we shouldn't be here as a nation at all. It's much more of an existential crisis for us to confront our past than Japan or Germany or Russia or any other country because they can acknowledge that they were wrong to do this or that without having to feel like their very existence is an affront to fairness and decency.

Anyway, that mental block inevitably leads to nonsense like this:


Reasons to love America, 2018



Forget D.C. Forget Twitter. Forget what's on your screens.
Yeah, you know I'm reading this on my screen right now,, right?



Forget D.C. Forget Twitter. Forget what's on your screens. On America's 242nd birthday, the numbers in the poll below should be a hell of a lot higher.






Why?
We are a country that had a choice between an intelligent, experienced, competent woman and a senile, vulgar, has-been two-bit swindler with frightening personality disorders and we choose the latter to be our president. Now we're letting that bloated sociopath take children away from their parents and lock them in cages.  What right do we have to be proud of ourselves?


Our thought bubble: When we begin conflating "America" with partisan forces on either side, they've won. The strength of our country has been that it transcends the fads, fevers and foul-ups of the moment.


Okay, "partisan forces on either side" IS AMERICA. We are a country divided along partisan lines. I assume most countries are, just most countries have more parties to choose from, so maybe the divisions don't seem as stark.
And "fads, fevers and foul-ups?" Is that what you see going on in America right now? We have a party in control of all three branches of government who are intricately tied to a Russian strongman-dictator.

 



We have Nazis and racists crawling out of the woodwork to threaten, intimidate and commit acts of violence against innocent fellow citizens. We have a president who sees the executive branch as a tool for exorcising his petty grievances, and we are TAKING CHILDREN AWAY FROM THEIR PARENTS AND LOCKING THEM IN CAGES.


When you see headlines like this:


Man, 92, Allegedly Beaten With a Brick ; Told 'Go Back to Mexico' by a Mom in Front of Her Child
Rodolfo Rodriguez




Migrant Baby Returned To Mom Covered With Lice: Lawsuit
It looked like they “had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us,” said the boy’s mom.


And you think of this?

Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders (1984)


All right, so what are all these reasons we should all be singing Lee Greenwood songs and getting Uncle Sam tattoos?

Consider:
  • "The U.S. had more job openings this spring than unemployed Americans." (Wall Street Journal)
Okay. That's good. Hardly seems uniquely American, I mean people have jobs in other countries, but yeah that's a positive. I mean, it would be even more positive if those jobs paid enough for the people who take them to get out form under their student loan debts, maybe had good benefits, maybe a union or something, but sure, more jobs is good.

  • We travel freely: Every day, 2.5 million of us board 42,000 flights.
Law School Seriously GIF



Really? That's your number two big point of pride? We are allowed to travel. That's pretty much the bare minimum for not being a dictatorship.
Do you think that  being free to travel is rare? Do you think that Germans, Italians, Australians, Taiwanese, Brazilians and Turks don't travel freely? This really isn't much to brag about. It's like me bragging about my wife saying "she's never slept with any other men during our marriage!" It's really the bare minimum for being a decent spouse. (For the record, she hasn't and I have way more reasons to brag about her than that)

  • 25% of us do volunteer service.
When you’re feeling sarcastic.

Ooooohhhhh!!! An entire twenty-five percent? So only three quarters of us are selfish dicks? Well, let's all pat ourselves on the back now!

You know, if you want me to be impressed with that statistic, you need to show what the percentage is for at least one other country. If you could say 25% of Americans do volunteer work, on 10 % of those tea-drinking bastards in England do, I'd say Oh, well done, us! But if you're only showing one number, it's like saying "the Giants scored four runs last night." That's great if their opponent scored three., not so great if they scored five. You know?


  • The U.S. government spends close to $50 billion (1% of total federal budget authority) helping the world, plus billions more from U.S.-based philanthropies.
When you’re feeling proud of yourself.

Whoooo!!! An entire ONE PERCENT!

First of all, see above re: not having any other numbers for comparison.
Secondly, let's not pretend that we don't know that a pretty big chunk of that money is in the form of military aid which those countries use to purchase armaments from US defense companies, so it's kind of a scam anyway, just a way to funnel taxpayer dollars into the coffers of some of the most evil companies in existence.

  • Americans are part of just 39% of the world population judged by Freedom House to be "free."

When you are truly taken aback.

Wait, what? Only 39 percent of the world's people are "free?" Who is deciding this? Who the hell is "Freedom House?"


Okay, I Googled them and they are some sort of NGO that was founded by Elanore Roosevelt, so they at least were good like 80 years ago, but they get funding from the US government, so I don't know how objective they are. But whether this percentage is realistic or not, it's still an awfully low bar to clear. Americans are "free." So are Britons, Frenchman, Italians, Swedes, Noweigans, Australians, Spaniards, just being "free" is more bare minimum stuff, like being free to travel. Actually, now that I think about it, freedom of travel really should have been folded in to the "free people" bullet point. It's really not a separate point. It feels like you just couldn't come up with enough features and benefits to fill a whole column.


  • "Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century." (Pew Research Center)
Okay, but unless it has risen in other countries similar to us, it's kind of hard to feel all flag-wavie about that.


  • "Crime in New York City Plunges to a Level Not Seen Since the 1950s." (N.Y. Times)

Okay, you're doing it again. You're taking one selling point and trying to make it into two separate things. You doiong that is as sad an indictment of America as I can imagine. The guy whose job it is to convince us how wonderful America is can't think up enough bright spots, he has to use duplicate talking points.

  • "Powered by a booming stock market and a strong economy," charitable giving in the U.S. last year "exceeded $400 billion in a single year for the first time." (Giving USA)
Once again, you aren't telling us whether this is more per capita than other affluent countries or less. Also, you're glossing over the fact that that number includes the money that the faithful tithe to their churches so the Joel Osteens and Creflo Dollars of the world can buy bigger mansions and private jets. It also includes monies that wealthy alums give to their almas mater. Harvard and Yale aren't exactly charity cases, but donations to them count towards that total the same as money given to Cancer research or a soup kitchen.


And finally:

About 1.3 million of us are on active duty in the military, and 20 million of us once served. 

File:Much.png


That's too many people in the military. The only reason we need to have that many people in the military is that we have to be in a state of constant war to feed the insatiable maw of the military-industrial complex. How many countries have US troops stationed in them? I'm pretty sure that it's over 100. Why? What do we get out of it other than a smug sense of superiority, the feeling that we are the biggest, toughest country in the world, aaaaaaand I just answered my own question.




Friday, June 29, 2018

Flashback Friday -- Pride month edition


I almost let all of  Pride Month go by without a tribute to some of the great LGBT musicians I have loved over the years. That would have been a damn shame. 
Let's cue some up, in no perticular order.










































Well, I'm off to California for a week to visit family. See you in July!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Random Thoughts



1. I am running out of ways to say that these people are shameless, soulless ghouls with the morals of  demon-possessed sewer rats. There just is no bottom to the depths to which they will sink.


Sean Hannity Blames Maxine Waters, Obama for Newspaper Shooting



 Jon Levine,The Wrap 2 hours 57 minutes ago 



“I’ve been saying now for days something horrible will happen because of the rhetoric. Really Maxine?” said the Fox News host. “Get in their faces, call them out, call your friends, get protesters to follow them into restaurants and shopping malls and whatever else she said.”



You know it would be one thing to try to blame Maxine Waters if this shooting hadn't followed months of Il Douche slamming the press as the "enemy of the people" and a threat to the nation. And if the day before this shooting Milo Whatever-his-name-is hadn't called for vigilante squads to start executing journalists. It would still be stupid, shitty, and dishonest to claim that Ms Waters' call for the verbal harassment of government officials somehow led some fuckwit to commit murder of several private citizens, but given what preceded this latest mass murder, it is just beyond the pale.

terrible typography GIF


The Department of Homeland Security sent out a press release with a headline consisting of exactly 14 words:


We Must Secure The Border And Build The Wall To Make America Safe Again




If you're not familiar with neo-Nazi scumbag symbolism, let me tell you that the number 14 is very symbolic for them. You will often see skinheads with "14" tatooed on their skin somewhere.




 "14" refers to the "14 words" that make up the white supremacist -- I don't know what to call it -- motto? Mission statement?
Anyway those notorious 14 words are as follows:

We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children


Which is probably just a coincidence! I mean, it's not as if there would be white supremacists at the department responsible for tearing Hispanic children out of their mothers' arms! Right?

Oh, you know what other number skinheads like to tattoo on their worthless hides? 88.
See, H being the 8th letter of the alphabet, "88" represents "HH," or, "Heil Hitler."
So it's also probably just a weird coincidence that the DHS managed to awkwardly wedge the number 88 into their text.


  • The increase in claims filed is not associated with an increase in meritorious claims. As of FY 17, the asylum grant rate for defensive applications in immigration court is approximately 30%. On average, out of 88 claims that pass the credible fear screening, fewer than 13 will ultimately result in a grant of asylum.
I mean, seriously, who does percentages like that? When you're talking about percentages, you say "X out of 100 ." Nobody says hmm, 15 percent, you say, eh? How many is that out of 88?"



via GIPHY



Oh, hey here's some news from Tennessee:


• If you’re a doctor, you can now accept barter of goods or services from an uninsured patient as payment for providing healthcare services in certain circumstances. 






Jeez Louise! I always thought that Republicans wanted to drag us back into the 1950's. Not the actual 1950's where unions were strong, marginal tax rates were high and the minimum wage was a living wage. Just the parts where women only ventured out of the kitchen long enough to vacuum in high heels and pearls, gay men were "life-long bachelors," and black guys wouldn't make eye contact with a white man.

Now I see it's actually the Eighteen-fifties they want to go back to. A time when no one had health insurance because communism hadn't been invented yet, but everyone always had a spare chicken or a bushel of apples to trade for whatever medical help the local sawbones could provide. Oh, and slavery was still legal.

It's weird, though, that they had to legalize this. Before today, if you went to your doctor and said "I don't have enough money to pay you to set my broken leg, and I don't have insurance because the black president was in favor of it, so how about I give you my tv set and this pan of delicious brownies my wife just baked?" and the doctor would go "Hey, now. I'd love to help you out, but I am NOT going back in the joint! Not for you, not for anyone!"



You know what? That last bit wasn't horribly depressing and infuriating. I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead.



Tuesday, June 26, 2018

You know what we don't need right now?


More of these bullshit calls for "civility."

We're supposed to not have noticed that this:

Tea Party Racism

never prompted a single call for "civility" or for "disagreeing respectfully."


We're supposed to have forgotten that no one was asked to tone down the rhetoric because of this:




or this




or this

charlottesville white supremacists tiki torch

So when I see these feckless conventional-wisdom beltway-insider moderate centrist idiots spewing bullshit like this:



or this



or this:



I just want to scream.
Like people are saying with a straight face that Sarah Huckabee and Stephen Miller should be allowed to eat in peace and how dare people bother them when they're just going about their daily lives, but apparently this:





is a satisfactory level of etiquette.
So if you're keeping score at home, remember: DSA activists shouting at Kirstjen Nielsen = They're the real fascists. Crowd of white trash screaming at Jim Acosta while he tries to do his job? Um. . . Inadvertent whistle, no foul on the play.


Here's the thing. It doesn't matter if we are polite to these people, if we are rude to these people, if we scream in their faces or recite love sonnets to them. They hate us. They will always hate us. There is no level of politeness that will make them behave in a civil way towards us. (And by "us," I'm speaking as a cis/het white dude. For anyone who is female, LGBT, black or brown, that goes at least double.)

No matter how many lunkheads on your Twitter feed spout the "gosh, this rudeness on the part of the left is making me want to support Trump" line, that line is bullshit. That person was always going to support Il Douche. That person was never on the fence until Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant and then thought "well, gee, if the liberals are going to be this ill-mannered, I don't see that I have any choice but to throw my support behind President Pussy Grabber, the guy who mocks handicapped people and encourages violence at his Junior Varsity Nuremburg Rallies and insults the IQs of anyone with whom he disagrees! I just have to take a stand for civility!"

Now, is making it uncomfortable for these horrid people to appear in public going to help anything? I don't know. I don't imagine they are capable of feeling shame, and if one of them was somehow shamed into quitting, there'd be a dozen other soulless ghouls lined up to interview for the vacancy. But it can't hurt. It can't get any worse. And if I remember my History classes, we didn't defeat fascism last time by being polite to it. We stormed their fucking beaches.
Fuck their "civility."


Friday, June 22, 2018

Flashback Friday -- Cowboy Junkies



I don't know if it's true, but I always suspected that the name "Cowboy Junkies" came from a pseudonym used by Nick Cave on the "Honeymoon in Red" album. O ne track, he is listed as "a drunk cowboy junkie." This record came out in 1987, by which time Cowboy Junkies must have already been formed, but maybe he used it earlier? I don't know and I guess it doesn't matter. Anyway, enjoy a few selections from CJ's first two regular albums "The Trinity Session" and "The Caution Horses" as well as a collection of demos that was released under the awkward title "Whites Off Eartn Now."























And, of course, the song that really got them famous, their cover of the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane. When Lou Reed heard their version, he is supposed to have remarked that this was the way he had always intended the song to sound. I don't know if that story is true, because VU's version doesn't sound at all like they're trying to sound the way this sounds. But either way, it's a darn fine version.








Thursday, June 21, 2018

So sick of this.




I am so sick of this trend in columnisting. I am so sick of all the column-inches wasted on telling "liberals" that if only they would reach out to Trumpanzees and get to know them and try to understand them, then. . . I don't know, we'd all join hands and sing My Country, 'Tis of Thee and work togather for the greater good or some such bullshit. I have yet to see a single word written telling Conservatives that they should go out and shake hands with some real progressives and see that they're just like you in so many ways! No, it's always assumed to be incumbent on us, those of us on the leftward side of the spectrum, to be the ones to reach out and try to understand and make common cause with people who are literally fine with tearing children away from their parents and locking them in cages.



Here's the latest example I came across by someone named Salena Zito in the New York Post:


Check out this headline:

These Harvard kids got the lesson of their lives in the Heartland


Honestly, it sounds like the tagline for a sequel to Deliverance.
What the hell happened to these poor kids out on the "Heartland?"
Let's find out, shall we?



On a blustery afternoon in April, I filed into a van along with 10 students from Harvard. We had just spent the last two days in Chicopee, Mass.


Woah, woah, hold on a second. You never left Massachussets? And you think you were in the "heartland?" You gotta go to like Kansas or Nebraska or, you know the heart is in the center, right? Okay, so what did you all do on your adventure into the forbidding hinterlands of Massachusets, a daunting 85-mile trip?



We had just spent the last two days in Chicopee, Mass., where we had chatted with the police chief and his force, the mayor and his staff, small-business owners, waitresses and firemen about their struggles living in small-town America.


The mayor, the police chief, cops, mayoral staff, business owners. . . you know - reg'lar folks!


The undergrads were buzzing with their impressions. Chicopee is about 90 miles west of their prestigious university in Cambridge, but when it comes to shared experience, it might as well have been 1,000 light years away.


HOW? You didn't go to fucking Borneo, you went to the 'burbs. It's not like the people in Chicopee don't have paved roads or indoor plumbing. It's not even like they don't get the same cable channels.. They live in Massachusets. All you have to do is talk about the Sawx or Tom Frickin Brady. It's not like you needed a translator or anything.


“So,” I said, “who do you think most of the people you just got to know voted for president?”
None of the students had an answer. It hadn’t come up in their conversations and they didn’t know I had privately asked each person whom they’d voted for.
So I let a minute pass and told them.
“Nearly every one of them voted for Trump.”
My students at first looked stunned.


Oh my God this is such bullshit.
We're honestly expected to believe that these Harvard students, these scions of old-money dynasties and internet libertarians, were completely unfamiliar with Trump-voting Republicans. Because, of course, we're meant to assume that the wealthy "elites" are all limousine liberals and only the salt-of-the-Earth small town proles voted for trump!


We were only a few days into a new course I had developed with Harvard’s Institute of Politics, called the Main Street Project, where students are immersed in small-town America. Even though these kids had almost all been raised in the United States, our journey sometimes felt like an anthropology course, as though they were seeing the rest of the country for the first time. 

See, but no one would ever suggest that maybe the good people of Chicopee might benefit from a trip to Boston or New York or San Francisco. It's perfectly fine that small-town Americans are completely unfamiliar with the locales where the majority of Americans live, it's only the city slickers who are assumed to be missing out by not having visited the "heartland."


 I have been a national political journalist for nearly 15 years. Whenever and wherever I travel in this country, I abide by a few simple rules: No planes, no interstates and no hotels.And definitely no chain restaurants.
No Interstates?
You literally travel the country via the back roads? Like some 1930s wandering troubadour?

And by the way, if you want to meet these real Americans of the heartland, the first place to go would be chain restaurants. Who do you think keeps shit-merchants like Applebee's and Chili's in business?

It's not big-city folks. We have our choice of many fine eateries from greasy-spoon diners to Michelin-star cuisine. I've lived in Atlanta for about 13 years now and it took me about 10 to figure out that once you get out into the sticks, you might as well look for an Outback or a Carraba's because all these tempting-looking little mom and pop restaurants - the ones who spell "Kountry Kookin'" with Ks, they almost universally suck. Hard. You'd think, you'd expect, that little local restaurants out in the country would have that good old fashioned southern cooking that you've heard so much about, but I have yet to find it. Anyway, I'm getting off topic here. Please do go on.



The reason is simple: Planes fly over and interstates swiftly pass by what’s really happening in the suburbs, towns and exurbs of this nation.


Nothing.
Nothing is happening.
People are watching sports on TV, playing Call of Duty or Fortnight or whatever on their X-boxes and posting memes to Twitter and Facebook, same as we're doing here in Metropolis.


 Staying in a hotel doesn’t give me the same connection I can get staying in a bed and breakfast where the first person I meet is a small-businessperson who runs the place and knows all the neighborhood secrets. 

Oh, yeah, that's totally something these Harvard kids wouldn't get. No rich person would ever stay in a quaint B&B in a small town in New England. That's something that only us reg'lar folk can appreciate!

Also, you have to spend time in a community to really report on it. Parachuting in for a few hours to interview the locals can lead to flawed evaluations. When you are short on time, your instincts can get blurred and you gravitate toward the shiny objects, the oddball people and conditions that make the most noise, instead of taking a broader focus on the bigger, fuller picture.

Yes, you have to take the time to get to know the mayor and the chief of folice to really get your finger on the pulse of the average small-town resident.


Those simple rules are what intrigued students at the Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) after hearing me speak at a Pizza and Politics event on the school’s campus last fall.
Days after my speech, two IOP directors said the students wanted to learn more from me. I told them the best course would be a total immersion into the less-populated parts of the country, no different from the way I approach my daily job.
Your daily job? Your daily job is writing columns for the New York Post and Washington Examiner and appearing on CNN. So  it would seem that you are immersing yourself in New York, DC and Atlanta. And seriously, are you taking the back streets from New York to Georgia?

Chris Kuang, a 20-year-old sophomore from Winchester, Mass., and Sam Kessler, 21, a junior from Blue Bell, Pa., led the charge, recruiting 18 other students for the class, which began in February.


Okay, wait a minute. Blue Bell, PA is a town of about six thousand residents outside of Fort Washington State Park. Winchester is a Boston exurb with a population of around 20,000. You're taking them to a town of Fifty Five Thousand to teach THEM about life in small-town America?


“The best way to blow apart a stereotype is to challenge it,” Kuang, an applied math and economics major, told me.

Yes. That is exactly the way we humans speak. This is clearly a real thing that a fellow human has said out loud.


So, before we started traveling, we held several workshops to discuss their ideas about the “other” America.
They admitted they had been fed a steady diet of stereotypes about small towns and their folk:



Okay, I hate to keep harping on this point, but I notice that no one ever bemoans the fact that people in the rural south or midwest are fed a litany of stereotypes about the "coastal elites" in big cities. People from the flyover states have generally been led to believe that Southern California is Baywatch, San Francisco is RuPaul's Drag Race and Oakland is The Warriors. (the movie, not the basketball team.) And I get it. Before I moved to Atlanta, all I thought I knew about Georgia came from the Dukes of Hazard and Deliverance. I don't blame people for their misconceptions about blue state cities, I just wonder why it is that no one feels like they need to be disabused of their misconceptions the way we are always urged to get to know the "heartland."


 “backwards,” “no longer useful,” “un- or under-educated,” “angry and filled with a trace of bigotry” were all phrases that came up.


Whaaaaaat? Where would anyone get those impressions?






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As my students took their seats in the crowded restaurant, they couldn’t help but notice a 37-member family seated nearby celebrating an 11th birthday for Jasmine Smith, complete with a sparkly unicorn cake.
Jasmine quickly struck up a conversation with the students and was thrilled when she found out they were from Harvard.
“Well, you know, I am going to go to Harvard,” she proclaimed confidently.
Her mother, Monique, smiled and shook her head in agreement. “That is all she has talked about doing for as long as I can remember,” she said.
After devouring her cake, Jasmine sat with the students to talk more.
“I want to go and be the best I can be at something that will help change my community,” she said. “I want to help make things work. I don’t want to leave and forget where I came from.”



Oh. Uh, Yeah. That is exactly how an 11-year-pld cjild speaks. This is obviously an actual person to whom you actually spoke and not a made up phony anecdote at all.


In our final week, the class attended Mass at St. Stanislaus, a Polish church in the Strip District of downtown Pittsburgh. Before then, only two of my students had set foot in a Catholic church.


Oh, yeah. Can't find a Catholic church in Boston! You really gotta go out into the boonies to fing Catholics! Oh, it must have been like observing the headhunters of New Guinea in their natural habitat. Actual living breathing Catholics, can you imagine?

You know, if you want to talk to some typical Trump voters, may I suggest a Pentecostal congregation in Alabama? Or a prosperity-gospel mega-church in any affluent suburb?


At the end of Mass, an older gentleman came up to me and said how nice it was to see young people dressed up and going to church. When I told him they were students from Harvard, he beamed.
“I have been reading for years that college kids these days are thin-skinned, what’s that word … ? Snowbirds, snowflakes, anyways … that they have no easiness with meeting someone new or trying something different or won’t be open to opposing opinions,” he said.
Oh, bullshit. If this was a real person with whom you had an actual conversation in real life, he would have known EXACTLY what the word was.

And not to go off on a tangent, but have you noticed that there are two kinds of articles conservatives write about college? The first is "Oh, these dumb liberal snowflake college kids want 'safe spapces' blah blah blah. . ."  And the second is "Waaaah! I don't feel safe expressing my coinservative views on campus!"

Anyway, the article pretty much ends there without it ever occurring to Ms Zito that perhaps the imaginary Catholics of Pennsylvania might want to pile on to a bus and shake a few hands in Manhattan or Philadelphia and maybe learn that their stereotypes of "coastal elite liberals" might be unfounded.