Frankly Curious in Top Million Websites

Knight on Horseback - Don QuixoteI am three days of posts ahead as I write this. Normally, I would have moved this one to the Wednesday 5:05 pm post. But as you may have noticed, we’ve been having some server problems around here. Mostly they don’t stop pages from displaying. But they cause the categories to go away and, I assume, no one can post comments. At least I know that I can’t write anything online. The database can only be read — not written to. But nonetheless, today is a very big day: Frankly Curious dropped into the top one million most visited websites.

Now I know that this probably doesn’t sound like that big a deal. Top million?! But you have to look at this in context. There are roughly a billion websites on the internet. And yes, I would say that most of them are pretty boring and not active. But there are a lot of people toiling away out there. There are currently about 75 million WordPress installations up and running. And that’s just one content management system (CMS). So I don’t think it is unreasonable to assume that there are at least a hundred million notable websites in the world. So being in the top million is being in the top one percent. And I’ve never really hoped for more.

You may be wondering how I know that Frankly Curious in the top one million websites. Well, I don’t. I’m going on its Alexa rating, and it is certainly not perfect. It is basically a poll. And when a website isn’t that popular, the polling is noisy. Just the same, I’ve been watching it for years. It was parked out at about five million for a long time. And then it went through a period in the two million rang. But the main thing is that the Alexa rating has gone up along with my known Google Analytics numbers.

The current rank is: 914,051 (day); 932,292 (week); 1,158,662 (month); and 990,068 (three month). It’s this last number that I always look at. The daily number fluctuates wildly. The other day (because Bruce Bartlett was kind enough to link to me), the daily number was up at 200,000. But I’m not that interested in that kind of thing. Every website has good days now and then. As with most things, I’m interested in what Frankly Curious is as a kind of Platonic ideal — what would happen if I didn’t post anything.

There are other aspects of the traffic that aren’t as impressive. For one thing, Frankly Curious gets a lot of search engine traffic because of odd things I’ve written about. For example: Bugs: Rabbit or Hare? and College of Architecture and Planning Sign Is a Joke both get a tremendous amount of traffic. But people don’t hang around. They just want to know the truth (as I see it) about these very important topics. And then they move along.

On the other hand, the number of people who go straight to our home page without referral continues to go up. So that’s nice. And there are a half dozen regular commenters, which is even nicer. But the main thing is the idea of building something. I can’t say what it is. It’s great to have something tangible to represent what is, in fact, nothing but an addiction to writing.

Political Empathy

Brian BeutlerThere’s a great dearth of empathy and moral imagination in politics. We see it when politicians with gay children come around belatedly to the view that gays and lesbians deserve equal treatment, or when they take pride in Confederate symbolism until a white supremacist massacres congregants in a black church. Progress might not be so halting if people had wider horizons, which is why encouraging them to see their priorities reflected in distant tragedies is a valuable thing.

—Brian Beutler
Cecil the Lion Has Nothing to Do With Your Politics

The Fascism of National Review

William BuckleyThere was a really good Jeet Heer article over at New Republic, National Review’s Bad Conscience. It brings to mind my favorite William Buckley quote, “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!'” It’s so foreign to me. It would be one thing if history were making us worse, but it is actually making us better. We are, for example, far less violent than we used to be. What Buckley spent his whole life trying to stop was allowing the weak in society to get their fair share of the fruits of society. And that’s a pretty vile thing to stand athwart.

Heer’s article discusses the long history of Buckley’s magazine National Review and its’ love of fascism. We aren’t talking Nazism here. Even they understood that was a bridge too far. But when it came to Italian fascism, the magazine was fairly apologetic. And it was downright keen for Francisco Franco — publishing two laudatory articles about him when he died. This has long been an issue for me. In modern America, fascism is now seen bad exclusively because of the Nazi’s final solution. There is relatively little knowledge of how fascism was a rotten ideology. But that’s hardly surprising in a country that supports a lot of fascist ideals.

But most of the article is dedicated to the way that National Review, while not pro-Nazi, was anti-anti-Nazi. It goes into some depth about how the magazine constantly criticized the “lurid extravaganza” of Adolf Eichmann’s trial. So the narrative was always: the Nazis were terrible, but these Jews are culpable because they can’t just forgive and forget. Really, Heer quotes one complaint about the Eichmann trial resulting in “bitterness, distrust, the refusal to forgive…”

What’s interesting is that this is the same way that National Review approached the civil rights struggle. But I think you can just use the “one generation” rule of thumb. Conservatives are always one generation behind history. It makes the whole “yelling ‘Stop!'” thing nonsense. What it looks more like is a petulant child who makes every possible excuse for not doing something. World War II ended in 1945, so it took National Review roughly until 1965 to get over its Nazi apologetics. Of course, it took Buckley two generations to apologize for all his racist publishing. And I’m not sure if National Review is even now over its fondness for non-Nazi fascism.

But the whole thing is fascinating in the sense that National Review’s past history of fascism apologetics and even love are behind it’s continued use of “fascism” to slander liberals. There is, for example, Kevin D Williamson’s recent claim in the magazine that Bernie Sander is a national socialist. And then, of course, “Jonah Goldberg authored a lengthy tome in 2008, Liberal Fascism.” But this isn’t a sign of conservatives trying to stop history. It is them being so devoid of any ideas — or intellectual integrity — that they just use their own sins and project them onto the other side. It used to be fine to call liberals socialists. But that word just doesn’t have the bite it once did. So we are fascists. Even though it was never liberals who claimed that Adolf Eichmann was being treated too harshly.

What Respect Means to Police Officers

911 - Hang UpSteve M Over at No More Mister Nice Blog brought my attention to an interesting story, I Guess You Don’t Have to Be a Cop to Charge People With “Contempt of Cop.” Apparently, back in June, a woman whose friend had just been shot got into a little argument with a 911 dispatcher. The dispatcher asked, “Is he breathing?” The caller said, “He is barely breathing. How many times do I have to fucking tell you?!” At that point, the dispatcher said, “Okay, you know what ma’am? You can deal with it yourself. I’m not going to deal with this, okay.” And hung up. The friend died.

The point here is not that the dispatcher is a horrible person. For one thing, he didn’t completely abandon the caller. He had already called an ambulance, which arrived at the scene less than five minutes later. But clearly he was young and poorly trained. But his attitude speaks to a larger issue about public servants who demand to be treated with some conception of dignity that they think they deserve.

How the dispatcher acted on the phone was very much the sort of thing I would expect from customer service with AT&T. Well, worse than that. They put up with a whole lot worse than this. The caller said only a single even slightly offensive thing and the dispatcher decided that he had had enough. But in this case, the caller is watching her friend die. And the dispatcher thinks that his discomfort at being yelled at trumps that. It’s amazing.

But as Steve M noted, when the police go off in cases like this, they are always allowed to make the “threat” argument. Or as I put, “They were vewy vewy afwaid.” Clearly the dispatcher did not feel threatened in this case. And in most cases with police officers, this is all that is going on: they feel that they aren’t receiving the proper amount of respect. But whereas the dispatcher just abandoned the target of his anger, the police attack.

The best recent example of this is Sandra Bland. When Officer Brian Encinia pulls her over, he could just give her the ticket and move on. But he decided instead to make her bend to his will. It’s all about him getting the respect that he thinks he deserves. He most clearly never feels threatened. In fact, when Bland wouldn’t get out of the car, he went in after her. He didn’t call for backup. It’s all about some twisted notion of respect.

The question is why it is that people in these positions feel that others should be so deferential to them. After all, they generally interact with people under the worst of circumstances. Both the dispatcher and the Sandra Bland arresting officer got their start in fire departments. So I don’t think this is really about police in general. I think it is about the nature of their inbred — male dominated — cultures. It is a conservative culture: us against them; the good against the bad. So it is not at all surprising that this attitude sneaks in and they end up being far less professional than some minimum wage hack at AT&T.

But I would hope that cases like this would cause the society to stop apologizing for police brutality and murder with the facile claim, “Well, they have such dangerous jobs.” No they don’t! And even if they did, cases like Sandra Bland and Eric Garner and Walter Scott show that “danger” is not what these guys are on about. It is some notion of respect that they think they are owed. And if it comes down to it, they think it is all right to kill for it. But as a society, we need to stop thinking that this unconscionable violence is about public safety.

Anniversary Post: Rex Noble

Talking Union BluesI guess we will end out this week of labor songs with “Talking Union Blues.” I love talking blues songs — they are one of the best forms for political songs. And this one is just perfect. It was written by Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, and Pete Seeger. I don’t have a lot to say about it. The great thing about talking blues songs is that they speak for themselves.

This performance is by a guy who calls himself Rex Noble — but his account actually indicates “Paul” as his first name. I have no idea who he is. He’s another example of these people with prodigious talent who somehow don’t have tens of thousands of screaming fans. At the same time, I can’t seem to go anywhere without seeing the tone deaf phenom Taylor Swift. Anyway, I like his version “Talking Union Blues.” He speeds it up and he gives it a bit more of that Bob Dylan sneer than Seeger did. Take a listen. It’s really great.

Anniversary Post: Lynching of Frank Little

Frank LittleOn this day in 1917, Frank Little was lynched. He was a union leader with the Industrial Workers of the World, organizing workers in various industries throughout the United States. He had gone to Butte, Montana to help organize copper miners. And then, early in the morning of 1 August 1917, six masked men broke into his hotel room and dragged him away. They beat him and finally hanged him from the Milwaukee Railroad trestle. He was probably 38 at that time.

It is widely believed that the men were Pinkerton agents, but there might have also been local law enforcement in the group. This is what capitalism is. This is what the owners do. Quite literally, small changes in their profit margins are more important than human life. Of course, one might say that things are better now. The capitalists have learned how to get the workers to self-oppress. That’s true. But if the workers ever wake up, the capitalists will go back to killing. They aren’t hiring assassins the way they used to only because they don’t have to.

We mark the noble life and sad death of Frank Little.