Category Archives: Politics

The not-so-wonderful WASPs

Five years ago, I wrote about how columnists David Brooks and Joseph Epstein thought we were better off under a hereditary WASP elite (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) than under our current meritocracy. Now Ross Douthat uses Bush I’s funeral to thump the same nostalgic drum (not a direct link): we’re mourning Bush (“a longing for something America used to have and doesn’t really any more — a ruling class that was widely (not universally, but more widely than today) deemed legitimate, and that inspired various kinds of trust (intergenerational, institutional) conspicuously absent in our society today.

Put simply, Americans miss Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.” Like Epstein and Brooks, Douthat thinks the WASP noblesse oblige made them more dedicated to public service. They were traveled and experienced enough to understand foreign cultures “better than some of today’s shallow multiculturists,” and to function as great statesmen on the world stage. Their fatal mistake was giving up and letting meritocracy take over when they should have “admitted more blacks, Jews, Catholics and Hispanics (and more women) to its ranks … but it would have done so as a self-consciously elite-crafting strategy, rather than under the pseudo-democratic auspices of the SAT and the high school resume and the dubious ideal of ‘merit.'”

Roy Edroso suggests Douthat’s just positioning himself for the post-Trump era. I’m more inclined to agree with NMMNB at the link, Douthat’s interest seems to lie in a continued WASPocracy being more religious, more conservative and probably a lot more restrictive about sex (he’s not sex-positive). And given Douthat thinks conservatives aren’t reactionary enough, it’s not surprising he’d like to return to an older order dominated by a more authoritarian elite. But regardless of his motives his column, as usual, is an incoherent mess of untruth.

As NMMNB points out, if we miss WASPs so much, why is it we’ve elected so few of them since WW II? Just Bush I, who lost his re-election bid, and Bush II, who positioned himself as a plainspoken Texas farmer rather than a Yalie? Do we really miss them at all? Do we even miss Bush I that much? Douthat argues one of the WASPs’ virtues was sending their sons to war alongside the poor and working class, but Bush II dodged the draft by going into the National Guard, after family friends pulled strings to get him in (there’s no proof W personally asked for this).

As I pointed out in my original column, WASP’s noblesse oblige didn’t express itself in, say, fighting lynching or opening the doors to Jewish immigrants fleeing the rise of the Axis. They were perfectly happy setting quotas that kept out Jews and non-whites (and women) from their Ivy League schools or from their neighborhoods. Douthat argues that the current meritocracy can be exclusionary too, which is a fair point, but the solution is to fight against that, not simply decide “well elites are always elitist so what’s the point?” They had mistresses. They drank during Prohibition. They may not have been more corrupt than today’s elites, but they were certainly no less. As for their international statesmanship, these are the people who gave Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador brutal dictatorships that lasted for decades.  Some statesmanship!

And Douthat’s alt.history is ludicrous. WASPs were racist, sexist and anti-Semitic (David Brooks admits that much, at least). They probably considered themselves perfectly meritocratic, it’s just that they knew merit resided in white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant men. Asking “what if they’d accepted women and non-WASPs?” answers itself; it’s like asking “what if Southern whites had made segregation better by treating talented black as equals?” Not gonna happen.

That’s more thought than anything by Douthat deserves, but he got it anyway.

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Hand-waving poverty and other links.

There’s a school of right-wing thought that as Jesus said the poor are with us always, there’s no point to helping them. We’re not going to end poverty, we may not be able to help everyone, so what’s the point?

Of course by that logic, there’s no point to paying for police. We’re not going to get rid of all crime,we’re not going to catch all criminals, so why not just give up? But people do grasp that stopping crime is a good thing, even if you don’t bat 100 percent. I dont’ think poverty’s any difference. Helping one person who can’t get medical care (the topic in the link above) does make a difference. And Jesus wasn’t saying don’t bother to help the poor because you can’t end poverty. He’s quoting an Old Testament passage, the point of which is that poverty enduring is a reason to be generous, not to just give up.

There’s a right-wing school of thought that not only is it bad to help the poor with tax dollars, it’s bad to help the poor period. Homeless shelters are bad because they give homeless people less reason to get a job and afford rent. What they need is to suffer so that they’ll have an incentive to get off their lazy asses. Because that’s the real problem, isn’t it?  A variation on this idea is that what poor people really need is not charity but jobs, so capitalism is the real charity. John Stossel, for example, wrote some years back that putting your money into a new business would do far more good than putting it into charity.

Of course that ignores that increasingly money flows to the stockholders, not to paying employees jobs they can live on (see here for more). Nine out of 10 jobs in Silicon Valley pay less than they used to. It’s worth remembering that capitalism by itself has a mixed record at best of helping out the poor and downtrodden. Wages were good in the 20th century because of unions and government support for labor rights, moving us away from the Gilded Age where the worker had no rights at all.

Nevertheless, Kevin Williamson (yes, Kevin “kill women who get abortions” Williamson) takes that ball and runs with it, and runs roughshod over Christiantiy. Sure, Jesus said that if you have two coats, you should give one to someone who doesn’t have one. But you know what? Capitalism mass-produces coats! If you open a coat factory, you can hire people, pay them well and they can afford their own coats! Besides, what if he needs food more than a coat, huh? While Williamson also acknowledges that charity is important, it feels like lip service as he gets to the important point, reassuring rich people that just by running businesses they’re making the world better.

And of course, there’s still the standard war-on-the-poor tactics: Arkansas requires Medicaid recipients report their work hours to keep coverage. But it makes it very hard for them to do so, for example only allowing online reporting.

Rep. Paul Ryan is leaving office getting plaudits for fighting the deficit. But his budgetary priorities increased it. He only cared when it justified slashing the social safety net.

Will Congress start holding banks accountable for misdeeds?

Greed is not good.

A couple of economists continue insisting that supply-side economics works. They’re wrong.

 

 

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Bright when the cause is right

Title taken from one of Carol Kendall’s books because this is some relatively upbeat stuff.

Back in January, Oprah’s Golden Globes speech led many people to imagine her running for president. Slacktivist says that misses the point of the speech: it’s not about how Oprah’s going to save us, but looking forward to the day we can save ourselves.

“When we quit believing in the possibility, we quit trying and what was once horrific becomes ordinary. That is what happens when we let hope die.”

 “Why are the rich so hard toward the poor? It is because they have no fear of becoming poor.”— Rousseau

“She personally called the owner of the Mocambo, and told him she wanted me booked immediately, and if he would do it, she would take a front table every night. She told him – and it was true, due to Marilyn’s superstar status – that the press would go wild” — Ella Fitzgerald on how Marilyn Monroe helped her break through the color line.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants—all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel.” — George Orwell on how we shouldn’t forget that we depend on the grunts of the working class.

” If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” —JRR Tolkien on the merits of reading fantasy

Cutting off white supremacists and neo-Nazis from GoFundMe and PayPal won’t kill the movement, but it’ll make the alt.right hurt.

The religious right did not do well this past midterm election.

Texas pastor Gavin Rogers joined the migrant caravan to witness the truth of who’s coming here (spoiler: it’s not a secret terrorist army financed by George Soros).

We don’t always punish the people who cover up for villainy. But former MSU president Lou Anna Simon has been charged with two felonies for lying about serial sexual assailant Larry Nassar.

A reminder how very radical Martin Luther King was, and is today.

When Koeberle Bull received racist message on FB from a stranger, she investigated. She may have stopped a school shooting.

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Assorted links, mostly about Republicans

“What their research has found is that younger white evangelicals who remain white evangelicals do not differ very much from older white evangelicals in their political/cultural views. That might mean that most younger white evangelicals remain politically indistinguishable from older white evangelicals, but that may only be because any younger white evangelicals who do not will thereby cease to be “evangelicals.” — Slacktivist.

According to the QAnon conspiracy, Jeff Sessions should be rounding up the Democratic pedophile Satanists for Trump by now. True believers struggle to grasp it ain’t happening. Slacktivist looks at religious-right conspiracy claims bureaucrats are hiding the cure for cancer.

Oklahoma’s new governor, Kevin Stitt, thinks requiring childhood vaccinations violates freedom.

A social networking site for the alt.right splits on whether the organizers or the posters are secret social justice warriors.

By his own statement, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s #1 goal from 2008-12 was to make Obama a one-term president. After last week’s election he’s suddenly discovered that partisan politics is bad.

A history of Jerome Corsi, a lying liar who lies.

Florida Panhandle Rep. Matt Gaetz encourages Republicans to get tough and stop the Florida vote counts while Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis are still ahead.

Following the election, some members of the Federalist Society decide it’s time to be anti-Trump. Much like Roy Edroso at the link, I’m unimpressed until they actually do something seriously opposing Trump — if they just wring their hands, it’s merely CYA to protect their reps should Trump go down.

The Breitbart website wants you to be afraid, very afraid!

A high school class celebrates with a Nazi salute. And Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith praises someone by saying if he invited her to a lynching, she’d show up. A Kansas Republican tells a black woman attending a planning meeting to remember he’s part of the master race.

Trump has bared reporter Jim Acosta from the White House based on a doctored video. CNN is suing.

A former classmate of white nationalist Faith Goldy tries to figure her out.

Tucker Carlson reported an attack where antifa protesters broke down his door. An attorney says Carlson lies.

Over on the Democratic side, Charles Pierce argues the Dems should keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker (some Dems disagree).

The FBI stats on hate crimes are wildly inaccurate.

An incel rant on how women forgive handsome men for farting, but not incels. I’m totally convinced.

Climate change guarantees that this year’s hurricanes and wildfires are what we can expect going forward.

The public supports teachers’ demands for higher pay and more school funding. But they don’t want to pay more taxes to make it happen.

Incels believe that women judge beta males who fart (” I can tell by his unattractive face that he’s a psychopath who’s out for blood and craves children.”) much harsher than alpha males (“they discreetly smell his fart to figure out what food he ate so they can get an estimate of what his semen tastes like.”). No, it’s not a parody, though it is as absurd as their other beliefs about women’s sex lives.

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After the election: some links

Of course the election battle is ongoing in Florida and Georgia. And sure enough, some of my Republican friends are parroting the claims that not having it settled on election day represents some kind of fraud. Sen. Marco Rubio is doing his best to play the refs on that one, as is former governor, possible future senator Rick Scott. And because Democrats who thought Jeff Sessions was too racist for attorney general (his last act as AG is both racist and authoritarian), also think firing him to put in a devoted Trump acolyte as acting AG is bad, Democrats are therefore full of shit.

While I think the Democrats did well, as I noted last week, no question Trump’s party having a lock on the Senate is a win for them: little chance of stopping whatever shit judges they push through now. And it’s unlikely, despite Bernie Sanders’ optimism, that Trump will swing left. How it will all play out, only the next two years will show. Now, links:

Republicans are losing suburban white women. Given they’re not going to change course, do they have any way to counteract that?

Bret Stephens at the NYT thinks Democrats blew it completely, and got very pissy being told he was wrong.

Despite the Democratic gains, some pundits still say the election was a case of messaging fail.

Did Democrats win because they didn’t go after Trump full-throttle?

A militant right-wing group in Georgia is threatening violence if Stacey Abrams wins.

A white nationalist still hopes to take over the Republican Party. Like most people who long for a white homeland, he’s full of shit, believing everyone should live in an ethnic homeland: whites in the US and Western Europe, Hispanics in Latin America, for instance. Only Hispanics were in the Southwest US and Florida long before whites, so why doesn’t that figure in (and, obviously, Native Americans were here before everyone)? The “white homeland” is just a pretense at sounding like there’s some historical logic to what white supremacists want.

We just elected several scientists to Congress.

New acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker has a history as a scam artist. He also thinks judges should make decisions based on New Testament morality. I have a feeling he doesn’t mean opposition to usury, sympathy for the poor and judging not lest ye be judged.

Prior to the election, a CNN columnist called for an end to service sex, where women give their partners sex even when the women aren’t in the mood. Unsurprisingly, the sexists at the Federalist say service sex is good and women should put out whether they want to or not.

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Good news for modern man!

Tuesday didn’t represent the beginning of the end. It’s not even the end of the beginning. But it was a win, and we shouldn’t doubt that.

It was a win because it actually pushed back against Trump. We didn’t get the red tsunami some right-wingers predicted.

It was a win because Democrats took the House. That gives them a position to block Republican attacks on Obamacare, further tax cut bills, and other Republican idiocy. They’ll also have the power to launch investigations. Trump’s already uttering dire threats if they try; I doubt he’ll back them up.

Kris Kobach, vote-suppression guru, lost in Kansas. Kim Davis, the Clerk of Court who refused to let gay couples get marriage licenses, lost the election. Steve West, whose own kids denounced him as a homophobe, lost. Colorado elected the nation’s first gay governor, with the “first first man.” There’s a new surge of Democratic women into office including lesbian, Native American, Latina and black officials. That’s good now, and it’s good in the long term. There’s a bench of politicians to draw from for future national campaigns. And more people will look and see  more diverse body of elected officials. That changes our view of what’s possible.

So does the fact Republicans didn’t crush all opposition. Trump isn’t a juggernaut who can’t lose. We aren’t slitting our own throats by fighting him.

A lot of individual races and states went badly. But despite all the gloom and doom that Democrats should have done better, it’s comparable (as noted in the first link) to the 2010 Tea Party campaign. Nobody denied that was a win for the right.

So even though there is much work yet to do, for the rest of this week I’m happy just to enjoy the win.

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He dyed her vagina purple and other gender-war news

Yes, it actually happened: an ob/gyndoctor thought it would be hysterically funny to dye a patient’s vagina purple.

Baylor University student Jacob Walter Anderson was indicted on four counts of sexual assault. He’ll cop to unlawful restraint, which carries up to a ten year penalty, but his sentence is $400 fine and three years suspended probation. The victim’s family says the DA just doesn’t believe he can convict a first-time rapist.

“This is a depressing reality for all of us who are — or who ever were — a part of American white evangelicalism. We can all play Six Degrees of Separation From A Rapist. But we never need to use all six degrees.” I suspect that’s true of many institutions.

“Cohen alleges that Moates once told her that she “couldn’t possibly be telling the truth that I was a proud virgin, that I had indeed never kissed a boy, because I was too gorgeous for that.” She was 16 years old at the time.” Another day, another predator.

An anti-abortion group in Texas promised to provide family planning service to 70,000 women. It’s still getting state funding, even though the number’s a mere 3,300.

Even Republicans are concerned about women’s access to tampons and similar products. There are several more sexism-related links in this slacktivist linkpost.

CERN suspended a scientist who claims women’s brains aren’t as good at science as men’s.

Conservative, sexist comics activist Richard Meyer is suing writer Mark Waid on the grounds Waid destroyed his career.

No, no, believing men must dominate women totally does not make us male supremacists!

A neo-Nazi website has some suggestions for how to enforce monogamy.

Someone’s trying to frame Robert Mueller for sexual assault. Not very competently, but I’m sure we’ll see more of this. It’s a two-fer, clobbering Democrats and Me Too at the same time. The frame fell apart, which has some conservatives seething. At Democrats, not the fakers.

Dr. Michael Holick has been an expert defendant’s witness in hundreds of child abuse cases, thanks to his theory that lots of alleged abuse is explained by super-fragile bones.

In better child-abuse news, the Justice Department is investigating the Catholic Church’s decade’s long history of covering-up for abusers.

Paul Feig scoffs at the idea Hollywood can’t find more female directors.

The creepy world of fundamentalist Bill Gothard and his sexual harassment (“IBLP is a case study in how a religious culture can implode when an authoritarian theology allows the most vulnerable to be targeted by predators.”).

The DARVO strategy for rapists and sexual harassers: Deny, Attack the Victim, Reverse Victim and Offender roles to claim you’re the suffering one.

A look at the difference between black and white Southern women’s political involvement. In a discussion of privilege and voting, NMMNB highlights one particular section, an account of white couples going into the polling booth together so the husband can tell his wife how to vote.

Did your wife sleep with other men before your marriage? Some incels think that makes you a cuckold.

Yet another shooter turns out to be a misogynist and abuser.

The Google protests, sexual-equality efforts in Ethiopia and other news from Echidne.

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Three quick and unrelated links

Because I just found this one buried in my various drafts, so I might as well post it before it becomes completely obsolete.

Bryan Caplan, an economics professor (whom I’ve referenced before), wonders if there’s any point to going to college besides learning useful job skills. Because yeah, economics is perfect for that.

A discussion of moral luck (the concept that our ethics depend, in part, on luck), it’s relation to fascism and why some people have to wait for fascism to rise before we fight.

Milo Yiannopoulos is PO’d about journalists.

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Inspiration for Monday morning

Last week didn’t feel terribly hopeful politically. First we got the bombing attempts on Soros, Obama, Clinton. Then loud cries from the right that this was obviously a put-up job! Then when they catch the guy, he’s obviously being framed. I also spent more time than it was worth arguing with an FB friend who thinks a)the attacks are a put-up job; b)while he defends the rights of employers to fire anyone at will, he’s outraged the woman who tried to stop a black man entering his own home was fired by her employer — thought policing (no, what she did was not just think wrong thoughts). c)Pat Robertson’s right to suggest George Soros, international Jewish banker, is conspiring against America! Plus lots more blather about the horror of fake rape accusations, political correctness, liberal hatemongering forced Republicans vote for Trump, etc. Like a lot of older white guys, he’s clinging fast to his privilege and he won’t let go.

And then came the shooting at the synagogue. And even if we win in next week’s election, and in 2020, it will be a long time before we’re reasonably secure against this shit. The Republicans have made their choice: white supremacy, male supremacy, bigotry, they’re all in. The next time they get power, they’ll pick up where they left off. So it’s a long hard fight ahead. So let’s have some inspiration. Not really optimistic but a reminder that it’s right to fight, even when the world is turning to suck. Especially when it’s turning to suck.

First, Bishop Oscar Romero: “When we struggle now for human rights, for freedom, for dignity; when we feel that the church’s ministry means showing concern for those who are hungry, those who have no school, or those who suffer exclusion, we are not departing from God’s promise. He comes to free us from sin, and the church knows that the consequences of sin are all these injustices and crimes. That is why the church knows that she is saving the world when she undertakes to speak of such things.

Blair LM Kelley: “Progressives, liberals and sexual assault survivors and all those who desire a more just and decent America and who feel they lost when Kavanaugh was confirmed despite their protest should remember Mitchell, Plessy, Walker and Wells, along with Elizabeth Jennings, James Pennington, Lola Houck, Louis A. Martinet, Rodolphe Desdunes, P.B.S. Pinchback, W.E.B. DuBois, Mary Church Terrell, J. Max Barber and many others, including those whose names we do not know. All of these men and women were on the side of justice and lost. None of these people, who fought for full and equal public access as free citizens on trains and streetcars, stopped fighting. None abandoned what they knew was right. They all tried again. Most would not live to see things made right, but they continued. ”

Talia Levin: “The Myth of Sisyphus posits that the most logical response to the certain knowledge that one will die and fade into oblivion is suicide, but that “the absurd man”—Camus’ hero, embodied by Sisyphus himself—accepts this fate fully, and rejoices in it. “The struggle itself toward the heights,” Camus writes, “is enough to fill a man’s heart … it is possible to look around us and consciously—with a discipline of the mind that may seem at times beyond our strength—manufacture hope, and use it as an impetus forward.”

Czech president and former dissident Vaclav Havel: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

CS Lewis (I thought I had a link, but no): “The gods will fall. The wisdom of Odin, the humourous courage of Thor (Thor was something of a Yorkshireman) and the beauty of Balder, will all be smashed eventually by the realpolitik of the stupid giants and misshapen trolls. But that does not in the least alter the allegiance of any free man.”

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Talent is not always rewarded

Lance Mannion writes a great post about men who support Trump: “They believe in their hearts they should have been rich. They should have been physical heroes. They should have been football and baseball and basketball stars. They should have been irresistible to beautiful women—still should be! They should have had the power and courage to tell anyone who got in their way to fuck off. They should have had the power and courage to make them if they didn’t.” So they look to Trump and relieve their frustration by living through him.

Mannion wrote that for free, on his blog. Right-winger David Gelertner got to write a piece about how liberals hate Trump because they hate America for pay (I presume) in the editorial page of the Wall-Street Journal. Even given it’s run by rape-apologist James Tarantino, it’s still some primo op-ed space. In a Slate interview with Gelertner, the dude comes off like an idiot whose response to everything (Trump objects to a Mexican judge, Trump says Mexicans are coming here bearing disease) is to declare it’s totally not racist! Saying he’s racist and sexist is slanderous! Repeat, rinse, repeat. As NMMNB puts it, Trump’s just an excuse for Gelertner to whine about how he hates liberals. It’s still lousy writing. Mannion’s better, but he’s writing for free.

And then we get Bret Stephens, who writes a regular column for the New York Times. In addition to being a climate-change denier, he’s a rape apologist who explains Harvey Weinstein is the fault of liberals and their support of sexual freedom. Now he’s shared his deep thoughts on false rape accusations: They’re worse than being accused of murder because “one can think of excuses for killing a man; none for assaulting a woman. But if that’s true, so is this: Falsely accusing a person of sexual assault is nearly as despicable as sexual assault itself. It inflicts psychic, familial, reputational and professional harms that can last a lifetime.”

If he couldn’t think of any excuses, he must have been half-asleep when he wrote that column. Or maybe he didn’t want to try. Because the truth is, there’s no end of rape excuses that get men off.

She’d had sex with him before. She’d had sex with someone before. She was unconscious so she didn’t say no. He’s a really good guy and he shouldn’t be punished. She was out alone at night. She looked sexy. She dressed sexy. She wasn’t a virgin. She didn’t fight hard enough. He was her husband. It’s men’s nature to rape. Not to mention the excuses offered by Stephens and other apologists, which usually come down to liberals! Sex! Promiscuity!  All Stephens is doing is promoting the idea we can’t trust accusers which is bullshit.

Mannion could do a better job than either of them, but like me, he lingers in relative obscurity. Which I wouldn’t really mind — there’s no shortage of crappy novelists with way better careers than me — if Stephens and Gelertner weren’t pumping so much bullshit into society.

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