Excellent Read: “On the Subject of Listening to the People of the Land”

I whole-heartedly endorse foundational progressive blogger Driftglass‘s response to the self-styled ‘Jacobins’ and their BothSides media enablers noisily calling for a return to the mythical utopia of the WWC Democrat:

In a former life, my span of responsibility was so weirdly far-flung that when people asked me what I did for a living, I would tell them that I was in charge of saving Illinois manufacturing. And while that’s a wee bit of an exaggeration, it is entirely fair to say that working on every aspect of saving Illinois manufacturing took up most of my time and energy and the time, energy and budget of my tiny staff.

So believe me when I tell that even though I was involuntarily retired from the field of battle, my antennae is still highly attuned to items in the news about the struggles of the Rust Belt economy: outsourcing, manufacturing, skills training, the need to retool high schools and community colleges and the various federal, state and local policies and initiatives designed to get at these large and complex problems.

This is why I can tell you that this idea that “better messaging” to the white working class is somehow the royal road back to political majorities for the Democratic party is nonsense. Sure, Democrats always need to work on speaking like mortal human beings… But messaging itself is not the problem. The media is the problem. And since, as the man said, the medium is the message, until we start taking on the media as Public Enemy #1, we’re going to go right on losing…

1) For a variety if reasons, white working class Americans have been taking a pounding since the late 1970s. And for a different variety of reasons, a disturbingly high number number of white working class Americans keep voting for the people that fuck them over.

2) Judging by policy statements made, resources allocated, attention paid and political capitol spent, it’s quite likely that history will judge the Obama Administration to have been the most consistently pro-manufacturing administration since Eisenhower. In fact, outside of health care (and turkey pardons), I would wager a penny and a fiddle of gold that in the last eight years the Obama administration put more effort into promoting American manufacturing than into any other domestic policy priority.

3) If you are a member of the general public, unless you made an extra special effort to inform yourself, you are blissfully unaware of any of this.

4) If you are blissfully unaware of any of this, it is not because the Obama Administration failed to talk it up at every single opportunity, but because over the last eight years the American political media collectively decided that instead of boring-ass stories about what the Democratic party has been trying to do to improve the lives and futures of the working class Americans, what you needed to hear were lively fairy tales about Birth Certificates and Death Panels. Email servers and Benghaaaazi. A Republican rebranding scam called the “Tea Party”. Instead of stories about the Caucus Room Conspiracy and Republican sabotage and sedition, you needed to hear endlessly, plaintive cries from all the usual Beltway hacks about how Barack Obama was refusing to lead!

…[A]sk an “undecided” or an “independent” or an “I just hadda vote for Trump because…” friend if they remember any of this, and I guarantee you will get a squinty, faraway look as if they’re trying to recollect some obscure fact about the Wendish Crusade of 1147, which had been imparted to them by a forgettable history teacher 40 years ago. Sure, some of this might ring a tiny bell, but inside their heads what will be ringing a much louder bell — an iron bell the size of fucking Ceres which drowns out all your little, Liberal tintinnabulations — are years and year and years of the Very Serious People in Americas finest newspapers and cable teevee shows telling them over and over and over and over again that all of this shit is the fault of Both Sides, so by God why not vote for an “outsider” who will disrupt the Corrupt Duopoly!..

Go read the whole thing, and remember: Sharing is Caring!

Open Thread: Pizzagate — You Can Fix Ignorant, But You Can’t Fix (Deliberately) Stupid

Pizzagate, possibly to become the textbook example of how inventing “fake news” can lead to “real, tragic consequences”. I’ve been ignoring it — I suspect a lot of us have — because it seems one of those wingnut-shit-dumps designed, like cholera, to spread its contagion further with every mention. But given that one of its deluded proponents has managed to push the argument from banned-on-reddit to national news outlets, I’m gonna recomend Gizmodo‘s “Pizzagaters Aren’t Giving This Shit Up“:

For months, 4chan and Reddit users have delved deep into the emails of John Podesta as they were released by Wikileaks and concluded that the emails contained coded language about a secret child-trafficking ring operating out of Comet Ping Pong, a Washington DC pizzeria—a ring ran by Podesta and former presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. The theory was known as “Pizzagate,” and until recently it was just another of the internet’s outlandish conspiracy theories. Two of pizzagate’s loudest mouthpieces have backed off their support after a man armed with a AR-15, a Colt. 38, and a shotgun entered the restaurant to “investigate.” And yet, pizzagate somehow trudges on, without them.

(Pizzagate has been debunked by Snopes and the New York Times, and one of its biggest communities—r/pizzagate—was booted off Reddit for the repeated release of personally identifiable information, as Gizmodo reported last week.)

Two of the most vocal (and visible) entities propping up pizzagate’s absurd claims were, predictably, arch-troll Mike Cernovich and the Alex Jones’ Infowars….

There have always been people on the fringes making unsubstantiated claims and then covering their asses, just as there have always been angry, confused people willing to believe and forgive them. And while connections have been drawn by other outlets to Welch’s associations as a possible motivation for entering an otherwise unassuming pizzeria with a small arms cache, the connection is unprovable. But, hopefully the risk of having emboldened a gunman might cause Cernovich, Jones, and their ilk to reconsider fueling the fires of internet conspiracies.

What we’ve all been learning during Trump’s ascendence, though, is that the fringes are closer than ever to the center of power in this country. Among the pizzagate truthers, as Politico reported yesterday, is Michael Flynn Jr., close adviser to his father Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn—Trump’s pick for national security adviser…

Maddison Welch has the excuse of being a petty-criminal substance abuser with nothing more pressing on his calendar than investigating the ‘basement sex tunnels’ in a building with no basement. But what’s Alex Jones’ excuse — or Lt-Gen Flynn’s? Lulz nothing matters?

George Orwell would’ve been so impressed! All human knowledge and history accessible at the click of a few buttons, and people are using it… to embed themselves, and each other, further and further in a matrix of unbreakable, shatterproof STUPID.

Sunday Morning Open Thread: Resist

No garden pics this week — in much of the country, it’s too late for outdoor shots and too early to start planning for next year. It was such a crappy garden year for me that even before the election I was thinking about taking next year off from the Tomato Temptation. Theoretically, that would leave me time/energy to deal with the rest of the (badly neglected) garden, dig up all the flower beds & separate the perennials. We’ll have to see what I feel like in February…

What’s on the agenda as we wrap up the long weekend?


Charles Blow, despite his position at the NYTimes, is another conscientious objector to the New Trump Normalization:

I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.

It’s not that I don’t believe that people can change and grow. They can. But real growth comes from the accepting of responsibility and repenting of culpability. Expedient reversal isn’t growth; it’s gross…

So let me say this on Thanksgiving: I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.

I’m thankful that I have the endurance and can assume a posture that will never allow what you represent to ever be seen as everyday and ordinary.

No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn…

Excellent Read: “How Trump Made Hate Intersectional”

Rembert Browne, at NYMag:

In the numerous civil-rights movements of the 21st century, a degree of savvy about how to deal with racists, or homophobes, or Islamophobes, or sexists in isolation developed. But this expertise, from years (or in some cases, generations) of experience, was typically learned one form of oppression at a time. Progressives talk a lot about intersectionality — meaning, thinking about race and sex and class simultaneously — but Trump won the presidency by making hate intersectional. He encouraged sexists to also be racists and homophobes, while saying disgusting things about immigrants in public and Jews online. Hate, like love, is infectious, and it is contagious. And for so many, the adrenaline felt by blaming one group for one’s personal ills bled into blaming all the others.

The story of America for many is a seemingly never-ending process of playing catch-up. The perspective of those at the back of the line has been a tunnel-vision reality of knowing who is holding you down. Black people focus on white racists, gay people are consumed with protecting themselves from homophobes, women struggle to exist freely in a man’s world, Muslims and Mexican immigrants feel the weight of the world against them from “true” Americans. This created a complicated ecosystem for the historically abused — a shared understanding of what it means to be discriminated against, but also a quiet resentment over who has it worse. Because if you’re the worst off, you’re at the bottom, but you have a reason to scream the loudest, avoiding perhaps the most frustrating status: invisibility.

Now we’re faced with a clear reality: one group that hates us all….

So many men hate the idea of a capable women breaking into all-male spaces, because with her comes instant accountability. It’s harder to talk about grabbing women by the pussy if there’s also a woman in the circle, and that in turn makes it harder to blindly assault. It’s harder to casually say nigger when there’s a black person in the circle, and that makes it harder to beat a black kid senseless without fear of repercussion. It’s harder to say faggot when someone queer is in the room, which lessens the ability to casually bully a gay person to the point where they take their own life. Yes, there’s hate spread throughout this country, but it stems from the sickness that involves stopping at nothing to keep spaces fully white, allowing white people to continue with behavior that is no longer universally accepted in the real world…

You don’t see America, the melting pot of cultures, genders, religions, beliefs, as a good thing if you can’t keep up. You hate it with an aggressive irrationality — typically while being unable to explain why you feel the way you do — if you’ve never met anyone who isn’t just like you. And you resent it when the systems you created to make people become overqualified just to attain near-equality come back to threaten your relevancy, your status, or your power.

All of the groups that felt the wrath of these white people in 2016 have to somehow find a way to fight back, to save America. The reason it’s so hard for the country to actually change is because these white people have so little left, whether it be economic or cultural relevancy. This election was potentially their final hand, and they pushed their chips all in. And wouldn’t you know it, it fucking worked. But know their celebrations aren’t confident ones, filled with true elation. On the contrary, this is a very real sigh of relief, one that you get from a new lease on life, the one that stands between bringing back the archaic ways of old and permanently becoming a fossil.

Open Thread: New Category — Trump Crime Cartel

It’s gonna be in heavy rotation, if current reports are any guide. Paul Waldman, in the Washington Post, “Welcome to the Trump kleptocracy“:

It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Donald Trump said back in 2000 when he was contemplating a bid that he never followed through on. And while he didn’t actually turn a profit on his 2016 run, it’s looking more and more likely that being president is going to be very lucrative for Trump. By the time it’s over, he may even be worth as much as he has always claimed to be.

The words “conflict of interest” don’t begin to describe what the Trump administration is shaping up to look like — though there will be plenty of conflicts of interest with administration figures such as Rudy Giuliani, who made millions from foreign governments and corporations, some of which are hostile to the United States. But the real action is going to be in Trump’s own family.

Anti-nepotism laws prevent Trump from giving his family members jobs in the administration. But don’t think that’s going to stop them from being active participants in U.S. government decision-making, or using the fact that Trump is president to keep money flowing in. In fact, we could see the president enriching himself and his family on a scale that we normally associate with post-Soviet kleptocrats and Third World dictators.

For starters, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. are on the executive committee of Trump’s transition team, helping decide who gets hired for key positions and what the administration’s initial focus will be. We learned that someone on the transition team inquired about obtaining security clearances for the three so that they could see classified information (though the Trump team protested that the request did not come from Trump himself). Then there’s the matter of Ivanka Trump’s husband

Kushner — whose knowledge of government is so minimal that he was apparently surprised to learn that the Obama staffers in the White House wouldn’t be staying on to serve President Trump — is shaping up as perhaps his father-in-law’s closest adviser. He won’t have an official position, yet he’ll be privy to some of the most sensitive intelligence secrets the government possesses…

Excellent Reads: Words on the Tombstone

Via commentor LAMH, Toni Morrison, in the New Yorker, on “Making America White Again“:

This is a serious project. All immigrants to the United States know (and knew) that if they want to become real, authentic Americans they must reduce their fealty to their native country and regard it as secondary, subordinate, in order to emphasize their whiteness. Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Here, for many people, the definition of “Americanness” is color.

Under slave laws, the necessity for color rankings was obvious, but in America today, post-civil-rights legislation, white people’s conviction of their natural superiority is being lost. Rapidly lost. There are “people of color” everywhere, threatening to erase this long-understood definition of America. And what then? Another black President? A predominantly black Senate? Three black Supreme Court Justices? The threat is frightening.

In order to limit the possibility of this untenable change, and restore whiteness to its former status as a marker of national identity, a number of white Americans are sacrificing themselves. They have begun to do things they clearly don’t really want to be doing, and, to do so, they are (1) abandoning their sense of human dignity and (2) risking the appearance of cowardice. Much as they may hate their behavior, and know full well how craven it is, they are willing to kill small children attending Sunday school and slaughter churchgoers who invite a white boy to pray. Embarrassing as the obvious display of cowardice must be, they are willing to set fire to churches, and to start firing in them while the members are at prayer. And, shameful as such demonstrations of weakness are, they are willing to shoot black children in the street….

It may be hard to feel pity for the men who are making these bizarre sacrifices in the name of white power and supremacy. Personal debasement is not easy for white people (especially for white men), but to retain the conviction of their superiority to others—especially to black people—they are willing to risk contempt, and to be reviled by the mature, the sophisticated, and the strong. If it weren’t so ignorant and pitiful, one could mourn this collapse of dignity in service to an evil cause…

British visitor Bim Adewunmi, at Buzzfeed, “What Is America So Afraid Of?“:

… I’ve travelled in a few states in America this year, and helped by a British accent, have been able to strike up conversations with strangers with increased ease. I’ve spoken to immigrants and the children of immigrants, taxi drivers and waiters, undocumented people, middle class people, wealthy ones, and the working poor. I have eavesdropped on too many conversations to count, taking notes as rapidly as my fingers would go, and I have pressed people to explain themselves and their way of life more fully to me.

And they have opened up and told me. Immigration was a problem for a good number: They were worried America would be hit by a deluge of needy, open hands, and that those hands would also be criminal (that came up even when I was talking about the death of Prince in Minneapolis). In Las Vegas, I spoke to a Hungarian-American who told me that African-Americans would likely never receive a fair shake in their country, because their country was simply incapable of it. He also said America was going the way of all empires (hint: the direction ain’t “up”). In Cleveland, two separate middle-aged white men joshed with me about Brexit (they thought we had fucked up), and fretted about a Trump presidency, and what that might mean for women and racial minorities. A day after those conversations, I watched a man carrying a gun almost as tall as he was walk in ever tighter circles around a public square in Cleveland, chin jutting forward, practically asking to be challenged. In New Orleans, I spoke to a young black woman, a hotel worker, who told me her hometown was a “working poor” city, before telling me about her health benefits. In our freewheeling conversation, we touched on Black Lives Matter and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. In Philadelphia, a young black man told me he was Bernie or bust, and he was tired of compromising. In Queens, a Cypriot American laughed as he explained to me and my friends how certain European identities are tangled in ways that are not easy to unravel. People were scared, and that manifested as either a widening of their arms, or a defensive shutdown. The fight-or-flight urge had been flattened to just “fight”. And sometimes, it just looked like lashing out…

Rembert Browne, in NYMag, on “How Trump Made Hate Intersectional“:

… Barack Obama faced incessant bigotry for the duration of his two landmark terms, but the focus on his blackness (and his perceived ties to Islam) masked an additional threat he posed — one that is steeped in racism but isn’t just about skin color. Barack Obama is the embodiment of two things: what happens when a maligned group successfully plays catch-up, and what happens when a space that’s always been whites-only suddenly has its party crashed.
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For Aficianados Only: “The Creator of Doctor Strange Will Not See You Now”

Steve Ditko is old enough and has done enough for his chosen art form that he owes us nothing. On the other hand, although as a comix geek back in the 1970s I’d read about the acrimonious Ditko / Stan Lee creative breakup, I don’t remember hearing that Ditko was a full-metal Objectivist. Writers, as Joan Didion reminds us, are always selling someone out… so make your own judgement as to Abraham Reisman’s conclusions in his NYMag story. But Mr. Ditko does come off as a tragic example of the warning attributed to that Nietzsche fella about staring into the abyss:

For a recluse, Steve Ditko is surprisingly easy to locate. You won’t see him in public: Despite being one of the most important figures in comics history, the most recent published photograph of the 89-year-old was taken about 50 years ago. And though his name appears prominently as “co-creator” in the credits of Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange — which has already grossed more than $490 million worldwide — he has never been on a red carpet, or appeared on TV or radio. But if you ask within the comics community, you can readily find the location and phone number of his Manhattan studio. The man’s around. It’s putting that contact information to good use that’s difficult.

Ditko hasn’t done an interview with a journalist since 1968, two years after he shocked comics fandom by leaving Marvel in a move for which he offered no explanation — even to his boss, Stan Lee, with whom he created Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, among other classic characters. What followed has been an idiosyncratic crusade that has consumed Ditko’s capacious imagination: the creation of spite-filled, didactic, and often baffling comics and essays that evangelize the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Ditko has long been principled in a way few popular artists are, and he changed the comics medium twice: first with his elegant, kinetic, at times psychedelic artwork; then by being the first high-profile creator to inject serious philosophical arguments into superhero comics. His influence is staggering, but his personal story is almost totally hidden. He remains one of pop culture’s most enigmatic figures…
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