2013 Review: Part 4

2013 Review

July 2013

It’s interesting going back over old writing. Much of the time I can tell I’m just grinding out the article. But sometimes things really click. That was the case with the first article of this month, Can’t Two Puppets Cuddle? It’s a riff on that Bert and Ernie The New Yorker cover with them snuggling on the couch watching the Supreme Court on the television. It was an opportunity to discuss male culture and my belief that half of all the time men spend together is an effort to prove that their not gay. The problem is that being gay is about being attracted to people of the same sex. It really has nothing to do with being a macho jerk. And there is something wrong with that!

Chris Kluwe, is back in the news. And it was in July that I wrote about him, Chris Kluwe Better Punter Than Writer. It’s part of my bigger concern about winner-take-all economies like we have today. The man is neither a very good thinker nor a good writer, and yet he had just published a book and an article in Salon. And why? Because he was good at punting a football. So if now he lost his job because he was too outspoken, no one should care. I’m sure there will always be publishers around willing to pay him to write meaningless books with stupid titles.

I’m surprised at just how angry I am at the Republican Party during this month. It probably comes from the fact that for most of the year I’d been complaining about the Democrats. As much as I complain about my dear old party, I never forget that it is vastly superior. I cannot understand why anyone would be a Republican at this point. Well, I can understand why, I just don’t think the reasons are good. You could be a racist. You could totally lack empathy. You could be rich and a total jerk. That’s about it. If you are a Republican, you are one of those things. There are those who are Republicans because of what the party used to be. So I guess there is that fourth category: delusional. It’s time to wake up.

July was the month when a bunch of conservatives started talking about “libertarian populism.” As I wrote time and again, all that was the same thing the Republicans have been feeding their base for decades: economic libertarianism and social conservatism. I don’t understand what these people are thinking. It’s just the same old stuff. Republicans want everyone to think they are reforming without them actually having to change their policies in even the smallest way. That’s why I’ve argued that it won’t be until after the 2018 elections that the Republican Party might start making some changes.

Memorable Articles

Four Independence Days
Are the Rich Above the Law?
The Real IRS Scandal
Why Screenplays Suck
How We Treat Real American Heroes
Christianity Stifles the Search for God

Enjoy the entire: July 2013 Archive.

August 2013

In August for some reason, I wrote a lot about the fake IRS scandal. What really bugged me was that even though the scandal was fake, all the credulous reporting on it made the IRS look bad. And earlier today, I was asking about just how bad conservatives were. Well, in this month, I wrote, Trust Funds, Hedge Funds, and Slampieces. It was about that really vile letter that a trust fund baby sent out to his frat brothers about starting a hedge fund with daddy’s money. It’s interesting, because as I’ve reported before, in general, hedge funds don’t make money. They are kind of a con that the rich play on themselves.

I got back on my usual complaints about liberals and their naive ideas about how Republicans are going to change. One such article was, Hoping Won’t Make Chamber of Commerce Hate GOP. That was based upon another Greg Sargent article. I’ve gotten to the point with him that I won’t bother reading what he writes. It’s like he lives in Wonderland with the Republican “reformers.”

The month also contained a big bout of conservatives re-defining “equality of opportunity.” One of the articles I wrote was, Conservatives Define “Equality of Opportunity” Out of Existence. The truth is they never believed in equality of opportunity or anything else. But as long as “equality of opportunity” didn’t mean anything, they went with it. Once it was shown that in order to have even a little bit of it, they’d have to change their policies, they decided it was something else. The new definition: equality of opportunity is not having a rigid caste system.

Memorable Articles

How Much Could McDonald’s Pay Workers
Jesus and Troy
Blacks Getting Educated, Then Forgotten
Using a Teleporter Is Suicide!
Collectivist Pro Sports in Land of the Free
Stalin, Not the Bomb, Defeated Japan
Ashton Kutcher Works Hard for the Money
Rocky and Bullwinkle

Enjoy the entire: August 2013 Archive.

Blame Obama Not Brooks for Drug War Problem

Barack ObamaI’m no fan of David Brooks. A couple of days ago, I wrote, David Brooks Puts Profits over Prophets. But I don’t see why liberals are so upset about his Drug War apologia. Don’t misunderstand: I see what they are saying. David Brooks used to smoke pot, but he thinks it should remain illegal without the slightest recognition that the drug’s legal status had no effect on his life. He was white and upper middle class (at least). If he had been black and poor, the drug’s legal status might have destroyed his entire life. He doesn’t understand that. I get it.

Of course, David Brooks also doesn’t seem to get that simply being born black and poor would also destroy your whole life. Not a lot of poor black kids get to go to Grace Church School. David Brooks seriously needs to go to a Tim Wise seminar. But that’s what David Brooks does: not understanding that we live in an incredibly unjust country with an economic system seemingly designed to reward the worst of what we are. He’s an apologist for the rich. And the fact that he is well paid to work at the “newspaper of record” is all the indictment of our society that you need. We have a very sick culture.

David BrooksBut David Brooks isn’t the only clueless person around. Our last three presidents have all committed drug felonies. Two of those three were Democrats. Our most recent president was paid millions of dollars to write about how he not only smoked pot, but also did cocaine from time to time. None of these men seem to care that the lives of young people today are being destroyed by those very same laws that they managed to avoid getting applied to them.

I can hear the apologists calling foul right now. Yes, I understand. There is a reason. There is always a reason. Clinton was a draft dodger so he couldn’t actually be liberal when it came to drug “crime.” Bush was a conservative so what do you expect? Obama is black so obviously he can’t be liberal, except in as much as he is dragged along by popular opinion. And I haven’t seen a whole bunch talk about those cocaine laws that Obama occasionally broke.

We have a major problem with drug laws in this country. But David Brooks is not part of that problem. Did anyone expect him to come out in favor of drug legalization? Even David Frum still thinks that cannabis is a dangerous drug! And who cares what David Brooks thinks? I know some people do but they’re all idiots anyway. Our drug law problems come from our politicians—especially our “liberal” politicians. So complain all you want about David Brooks’ hypocrisy on our drug laws, but just remember: he is way at the back of a line that’s head is guarded by President Obama.

Tom Thumb and a Hypocritical Jerk

PT Barnum and General Tom ThumbExactly 130 years ago, the Fabian Society was founded. It was originally a socialist organization, but never revolutionary. It called for gradual changes to make society a better place. Today, it is more or less what I call liberalism, but not the kind of liberalism that the Democratic Party supposedly practices. It is also associated with the London School of Economics. It continues to operate as a think tank, linked to the British Labour Party.

As for birthdays, today really sucks. I’ll only talk about two people. And one of them, I hate.

Bob Black is 63 today. He is an anarchist writer. But he would be no more well known than I am had he not been responsible for getting Jim Hogshire arrested. Black was spending the night with Jim and his wife. It turned ugly and Jim forced Black to leave. Stories conflict (and don’t go by the white wash on Black’s Wikipedia page—most of which I suspect Black wrote himself), but I suspect it was mostly due to Black being drunk. I wouldn’t even bring it up, but Black went whining to the police about Jim’s supposed “drug lab.” Now coming from just anyone, whatever. But coming from a man who made his living arguing for anarchism and libertarianism, it is hypocrisy of the highest order. Of course, Jim isn’t the only person who Black has had problems with. In fact, being an asshole is what he is primarily known for. I would have given him the day in the tradition of people like Hitler, but I just couldn’t do it. Even though Black is a vile man, he’s about as significant as a cockroach.

Other birthdays: writer A E Coppard (1878); sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881); DC Comics founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson (1890); painter Andre Masson (1896); actor Sterling Holloway (1905); football coach Don Shula (84); boxer Floyd Patterson (1935); guitarist John McLaughlin (72); historian and writer Doris Kearns Goodwin (71); singer Arthur Conley (1946); comedian Dave Foley (51); and musician Cait O’Riordan (49).

The day, however, belongs to General Tom Thumb who was born on this day in 1838. He was known mostly for being very small: less than three and a half feet tall. But he wasn’t a circus freak. He was an entertainer who sang, danced, told jokes, and did impersonations. Through his relationship with P T Barnum, he became an international star. And very wealthy.

Happy birthday General Tom Thumb!

I Fed the Trolls

Don't Feed the TrollsI know not to feed the trolls, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Yesterday, over on a Jonathan Chait article, there were a number of really outrageous conservative commenters. And I wanted to share with you an exchange that I got involved with. It wasn’t about politics; it was about grammar and rudeness. Despite what you may think, I do manage to calm people down from time to time. This was not the case here.

Admittedly, my purpose was not to calm this person down but to just shut her up. There had been a flame war going on between quite a piece of work HarryWinstonLights and a fairly reasonable liberal beihai. After a fair amount of back and forth, beihai wrote, “I got better things to do with my time stumpy.” This provoked the following amazing response from Jenny1989:

@beihai – “I got better things to do with my time stumpy”

I got? I GOT??? Seriously? Do you mean “I have?” or “I’ve got?” You claim you’re a professor, an academic. How is that possible? Who in their right minds would hire someone as obviously dim as you?

Really?! She’s not only going after grammar, but in the lamest of ways. I also didn’t like the use of “who” as a plural there, but I guess that was acceptable. Anyway, I responded:

@Jenny1989 – I really like grammar. I love curling up with Fowler and a nice cup of tea. But what beihai wrote was not an error, it was a colloquialism. It’s like, “It don’t mean nothing to me.” It’s colorful. It doesn’t show a lack of understanding of grammar; in fact, it shows that one knows grammar well enough to play with it.

I assume you and beihai have a history and I don’t really care about that. But pointing out grammar errors and typos in web comments is just rude. And it makes you look stupid–especially when you make grammar errors yourself. I count at least two grammar errors in your comment. But I don’t think that says anything about you. You probably dashed off your comment, just like beihai and I did.

Admittedly, that wasn’t very nice. But it wasn’t terrible either. And compared to the level of discourse in that comment thread, it was downright gracious. I figured that it would just shut up Jenny1989, but oh how wrong I was. This one is a classic:

@FranklyCurious – Really? What were my grammar errors, cumdrinker?

This is amusing!

And as regards your defense of Behai, and as improbable as it may be, you are just as fuckingstupid as he.

Now you can get back to pleasuring your cat.

I couldn’t let that stand. She asked what her errors were. So:

@Jenny1989 – The question marks should not be inside the quotation marks, to begin with. You have shown yourself to be a truly vile person, however. So there will be no more communication between us.

That actually did shut her up—at least on that thread. But one of the other members of this conservative “group” responded, “you call people vile and stupid and you worry about THEM beeing rude? Get lost.” Now that’s very interested. I never called Jenny1989 stupid; I simply said that correcting other people’s grammar like that made one look stupid. And I only called her vile after she called me a “cum drinker” and “fucking stupid.” It strikes me that my characterization of her as vile was pretty restrained.

What I would like to know is if liberals go to conservative websites and do this. I don’t mean the general trolling. I know there are liberal trolls—I’ve even been one a couple of times myself. I mean the constant vulgarities and vaguely racist comments. Here is one from HarryWinstonLights:

@beihai – I’ll decide when and where I’m wasting my time, shitforbrains. But I will tell you this – you getting into a battle of wits with someone of my intellectual ability is a waste of your time. You’re an idiot. Truly. Why don’t you get off the computer, and go play Chinese Checkers with the three half-wits in the other room?

I actually responded to this:

@HarryWinstonLights – You got a problem with Chinese Checkers?

Actually, this comment sounds a lot like the French guard in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

So it’s parody, right?

There was no response to this because I think that HarryWinstonLights had turned into Jenny1989 by that time. I think that explains what at first seemed like an inexplicable comment:

The Pumpkin does not know it’s The Pumpkin. aka Jenny1989. aka HarryWinstonLights. aka NikkiManaj. aka poptart. aka ShaniquaObama. akaOlPurpleLips. aka MarcosAnderson. So much hatred, racism and ignorance requires many names.

So at least it is thought that all these accounts are the same person. One can only hope. But even if this particular collection of accounts are all one person, I know from comments I get here that this kind of behavior from conservative trolls is still quite common.

And what does that say about conservatives in a general sense? I’ve noted before that the main thing that holds the conservative movement together is racism. Another related part is this odd rage that doesn’t seem to be based upon anything. They are just angry and so they lash out. It’s interesting that in my experience, mentally ill people tend to be conservative. That’s probably because mental illness tends to make people very self-focused. And the essence of liberalism is empathy—understanding what others are going through. If I were a non-crazy conservative, that fact would really bother me.

The Rich Are Causing America’s Decline

American Empire in DeclineI was watching an interview on Democracy Now! with Kevin Phillips from a couple of weeks after the last presidential election. Phillips is an interesting guy and he is always worth listening to. But he said something that really stood out to me. He noted that America was a nation in decline. This is a big issue to me that I almost never hear anyone talk about.

Where I see America’s decline most clearly is among the rich. These people demonstrate a “circle the wagons” mentality. That’s what all the tax policy is about. The rich seem to have gotten to the point where they don’t think they will get richer because the nation is getting richer. Instead, they just want to take a larger and larger slice of the economic pie. That’s how you get rich in a dying empire.

What’s really important here is that this belief in the decline of the nation is self-fulfilling. Over the last 40 years, we have given the rich a larger and larger share of the economy. This has effectively decimated the middle class. So while we are still a very wealthy nation we have become a kind of banana republic. Of course, instead of having banana plantations, we have a financial industry. That makes it worse! At least you can eat bananas. Most of the financial industry is useless even regarding its already dubious purpose of moving capital around.

The other important aspect of this is the income inequality. Increasingly, we have the very rich and we have the poor. In as much as we have a middle class, it is made up of the remnants of our once unionized work force. For a very large segment of the modern American work force, it might was well be the late 19th century. There is no 40 hour work week when you work 3 jobs. There’s no overtime. There’s no benefits, even at companies that offer them because you don’t work enough for that particular company.

And we are declining in the most horrible way possible. We are constantly told that we don’t have enough money to provide for the poor or have universal healthcare or a clean environment. But we do have enough money for corporate welfare. We do have enough money to lock up cannabis smokers. We do have enough money to cut the taxes of the rich. And note this because it is very important: spending money on the things that our rich overlords tell us we can’t afford would make our country and our economy stronger. And the things they say we can afford are the primary causes of our national and economic decline.

Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “If you work hard and play by the rules, this country is truly open to you. You can achieve anything.” Pretty much the same thing has been said about every politician during my lifetime. But I haven’t seen any of them do anything about it. It is patently false. Obama hasn’t even tried to do anything for the labor movement. Why would he?! New Democrats don’t believe in that old economy stuff. They think if everyone would just teach themselves computer programming, everything would be fine.

But everything will not be fine. That’s because the rich have given up on America. They are just consolidating their gains. And their politicians have given up on America too. The only ones who haven’t given up on America are the poor. But no one listens to us. When the Occupy movement started, the media yawned. “Just a bunch of liberals.” But when the Tea Party movement started, the media celebrated. “A bunch of old people backed by the rich pushing for lower taxes on the rich!” That was something “new” and worth reporting!

And that’s our country in decline: the only things that matter are the things that matter to the rich and that’s because the only people who are ever listened to are the rich. This is not democracy. This is not freedom. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be a joke.