National Review Declares Intellectual Bankruptcy

I suppose I should reiterate that I speak here for myself, and not for my employer, because I’m about to have some opinions.

Leading purveyor of respectable racism The National Review has a modest proposal for education policy. Well, actually, they have an editorial endorsing a study (by the same author as the editorial!) from a think tank funded by Arthur Pope, a.k.a. North Carolina’s homegrown Koch imitation.)

Obviously, the editorial and the “independent” “nonprofit” “public-service” think-tank say, nothing LBJ ever did was good. All those civil rights things. All those pencil-necks thinking they know about chemicals because they have degrees in chemistry and are telling you that shit is poisonous. Gross.

Anyway, with their “standing athwart history and yelling ‘state’s rights'” bona fides out of the way, they seem to think that if we’re going to be stuck having education foisted upon us, we should at least make it as terrible as possible. Force disclosure of speaker fees so that we can check whether the Comparative Literature department hosts too many left-wing scholars. Strike most of Title IX, and definitely stop having schools do anything about sexual assault. Yep, worry MORE about the political leanings of guest speakers, and LESS about rapists.

It wouldn’t be Real Conservative without a nod to the free market, by which I mean fly-by-night diploma mills. Accreditation, they say, should focus only on the financial stability of a school. If it’s profitable, it’s fine! Accreditation for quality is apparently optional. As long as suckers are willing to pay for it with federal loans, who cares if it’s any good?

This, somehow, is what passes for higher ed policy on the right: Art Pope funds some shit-shovelers, they shovel the shit right into the National Review, and the National Review then makes it respectable and somehow we’re supposed to pretend that this recycled shit isn’t shit?


Pump the gas, Morty, we gotta get into the next news cycle

It takes more than just a cute cat to rise above the noise. You have to be a cute cat ringing a bell to get food and create an adorable commentary on wage slavery.

You can’t just have an advice board for home repair, not when creepy-tales board /r/nosleep can leak into /r/homeowners and create discussions about what to do when your house is bleeding for maximum upvotes.

You can’t just post a sad bird, you have to be a minor celebrity MMA fighter releasing an injured bird with disastrous consequences.

And you can’t just be surprised by people getting dressed up in fuzzy outfits and holding enormous conventions. Shit, from Leda and the Swan on up, generation upon generation has focused its formative pants-feelings on foxy anthropomorphized foxes.

To make the news with furries, you have to be an unsuspecting charity volunteer who brings a therapy dog to play with people dressed up as dogs.

Ideally, though, you’ll get something that pumps the gas a little more than that. If you wanna move units, whether it’s cereal or politics on TV or just the latest meme, you need more than one angle.

Ideally you get a remix of as many kinds of suck as possible, like this month’s neo-nazi alt-right furry convention disaster. Let’s count them:

  1. Furries.
  2. Some of them are Nazis.
  3. Someone makes a joke about the now-iconic alt-right getting punched to music.
  4. Twitter anger escalates to threats of gun violence.
  5. Ballooning security costs threaten the entire convention
  6. Convention management, led by a sovereign citizen who believes he’s immune to most laws due to special language and red ink, blames the victims.
    • (Aside: The Sovereign Citizen in charge at least partly because a prior convention organizer was revealed to be a sex offender. There’s an alarming amount of overlap between Sovereign Citizens and pedos, because of course there is.)
  7. And then shady accounting and attention bring the entire thing to a screaming halt and everyone points and laughs, starting with furry-community messageboards and moving on out to national news.

Pump the gas, Morty. We gotta get to at least ten different flavors of suck to make it into the next news cycle.

On Negotiation and Influence

I took a class through work yesterday on how to influence people without having formal authority. It’s not just a workplace skill, though, and when we broke up into groups to discuss one specific scenario, the group I was in wound up working not on “How do we allocate resources to competing software development projects?” but “How do three brothers help their mom move to a new apartment?”

My co-worker, the middle brother, didn’t just need to find an apartment and schedule a move. Mom and all three brothers had to agree on the details about size, price, location, and schedule.

Our conclusion during the fifteen minute training exercise was that it would be critical to finesse the older brother. He’s contrary and doesn’t like taking suggestions or orders from the younger brothers, so the middle brother would have to meet with him separately and make sure he felt that he was really a major part of the decision-making process.

That wasn’t the only problem. The thing was, nobody in the conversation was truly working in good faith. Mom says she’s fine with whatever, she’s ready to move to a smaller apartment, and any of the three or four neighborhoods they’ve been considering would be fine. But the youngest brother is always breaking up with girlfriends and asking to move back home, so she wants a second bedroom just in case. She can’t say that because it seems unfair to the other boys, who are helping her pay for this apartment, and also implies a lack of faith in the success of her baby boy’s life choices.

Similar subtexts and unstated preferences apply to neighborhoods: Mom’s in charge of picking the location, since it’s her house. All the brothers want her to move to the neighborhood which will make visiting her most convenient for them. They won’t say that because, you know, it’s mom’s house.

The relevant analogy for national politics kind of writes itself.

It wasn’t 10 albums, it was a couple of mix tapes

That whole “what ten albums meant the most to you” thing went around a few weeks ago, and it got me thinking that it wasn’t really albums that were the soundtrack to my adolescence. Oh, there were albums of course. Some stuff I heard on the radio, like Nirvana. Some I got from friends, like Portishead and (so you know I’m not making up better taste than I had) Sublime.

But it was mix tapes that really sort of opened up the sonic world to me. I got one or two from kids at summer camp – there was an older boy from New York who had a big collection of hardcore tapes by bands like Sick of It All and Minor Threat, which my father described as “music for assholes.”

I must have been in 10th grade when a friend’s cooler older brother, who went to a cool sort of alternative school, got a tape from his even cooler friend (I never met her, but I remember being awed that someone could be named Zee), and made a copy for me. Needless to say, I never saw the videos on MTV or heard the songs on the radio, and the tape didn’t even have liner notes. I didn’t know the names of most of these bands. I found a few over the years and bought some of the albums. And I mean years – I was listening to some of these things for ages before I found out who wrote them.

That tape was the one that introduced me to trippy stuff like The Orb’s “Little Fluffy Clouds” and the oddly beautiful noise of Medicine’s “Arcua” (Give it a moment. Give it several moments. Let it play until you think it’s never going to be anything but screeching… and then it collapses into a melody. It’s beautiful.)

And oh boy, The Drowners, by Suede. It sounded best with the bass turned up way too high, so that fuzz in the lead guitar riff hit you right in the gut, and it sounded positively pornographic. It was transgressive and dirty and bad and you just KNEW your parents were going to hate it. It was perfect.

The very fabric of reality

Like a lot of my friends and family, I’m really upset about the election. Trump seems like an obvious malign force and I keep trying to figure out why anyone would vote for him.

But I remember how the right was convinced Obama was a Kenyan Socialist Muslim anti-white Baptist under the sway of radicals, and also gay and a cokehead and an idiot and an evil genius. Like, all those conspiracy theories. And they were convinced it was just totally obvious. Then when he got voted into office and was really popular, they felt they didn’t recognize their country, because who could vote for someone who’s so OBVIOUSLY just AWFUL?

So, I have to second guess myself.

Is he a fascist? Or just someone I disagree with on the merits? Would I feel this way about any of the other candidates if they’d won?

Like, the pee allegations, right? We joke that even if they’re true, it’s damning that they’re plausible. But their plausibility comes from us- because we hate him so much we think of COURSE he’d pull that kind of nonsense. The same way the right-wing fever swamps were convinced Hillary Clinton was a lesbian, because they didn’t like her or lesbians, so they go together.

I mean, it starts to freak you out. What ELSE that I assume is actually just a weird superstition brewed up in the fever swamps of liberal Facebook? What if my ENTIRE REALITY is something I’ve made up out of epistemic closure and confirmation bias?

And then someone says yeah, the lügenpresse sure is out to get Trump, can’t wait til he ovens those bitches, #maga, and I start to think that my vision is pretty goddamn clear.

Seething Id

A while back I did a little research on companies delivering customer service through social media. You know, how do you manage a corporate Facebook page or Twitter account, should we be on Snapchat, etc. My conclusion was that customer service delivery over Twitter works OK for a lot of organizations but isn’t right for us, that a financial company using Snapchat looks like it’s trying to be hip when it just can’t, and that nobody should ever use YikYak. I don’t mean for business. I mean, ever.

Obviously, I’m still spending a lot of time on YikYak. If you don’t know, it’s like Twitter, but hyperlocal and even more anonymous. The idea is to let college students complain and chat and share their deepest secrets.

Basically it’s a glimpse into a seething id of people mostly 18-25 in your town.

Complaints about the meal plan. Questions about the best place to buy drugs. Occasional thrilling tales spontaneous hookups or drunken debauchery. And of course, this kind of shit:

I carry it around with me like a pocket-size peephole into the abyss. You know what they say: “And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” And then it calls you a cuck.

Bounce to it

A while back our friend Alex, an inveterate music lover, came by our place and wanted to play us some new hit song. So, he logged into his Spotify account and played it for us.

And then didn’t log out.

Today, I came home and decided it would be funny to play the Jezebel “Sluttiest Christmas Ever” mix that they posted today.

And then I got a text from Alex:

So, “Rudy the Big Booty Reindeer” just started playing in my headphones at work. I assume this (plus some quirk of Spotify) is your doing?”

Anyway, as aggressively difficult-to-listen-to as you might think a Christmas song could be – and a New Orleans bounce rendition of Rudolph with the lyrics changed to be about butts is up there – it’s still better than any version of “Little Drummer Boy” ever.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

So, I wanted to understand people who really thought Trump was better. You know, what policies of his do they like, what is it that appeals to him. It can’t all be racism, can it? There’s all those articles saying I should stop shaming Trump supporters. And I know I live in a liberal bubble. On my ballot, the only non-president candidate with an opponent was running against someone from the Massachusetts Pirate Party. DJT was the only Republican on the ballot.

The problem is, that I’d already unfollowed all… OK, both Trump voters who were in my feed. One after a “what’s wrong with Bay Area house prices” discussion ended with him saying he was OK with density as long as there wasn’t hip-hop dancing at his kid’s elementary school talent show, and one after she posted something insane about how Muslims are all coming to murder us. OK there’s my wife’s uncle from Indiana who’s a single-issue anti-abortion voter. I disagree heartily but at least it’s a coherent explanation. Old-school conservative Catholic, anti-abortion, case closed.

So, in my search for understanding my differences with others, I obviously went and got into a huge fight with a friend of a friend. It’s someone who, I have been assured, is a fundamentally good person. She told me first that a lot of voters voted for Trump because they had been hurt by the Obama administration’s policies.

So I asked her, who’s been harmed by Obama? People who got health insurance? Stock brokers who had to be held to a fiduciary standard? Bankers who had to increase their capital reserves? I know people hurt because they’re out of work now, but what part of Obama’s administration put them out of work?

After all, Republicans blocked stimulus, blocked Medicaid expansion, blocked health care regulation, and then complained there wasn’t enough work, enough Medicaid, good regs on insurers. Break the government, then cry out that it’s broken.

And oh, they hate Obamacare. They don’t feel supported by Obamacare. Remember, Obamacare was a Republican originated policy that Dems adopted because it was better than nothing. And as soon as the Dems picked it up, Republicans claimed it was Kenyan socialism. There’s a branding failure, definitely. Everyone loves the individual components of Obamacare, they hate the idea of it.

They like Trump’s economic policies? Look at Kansas. Brownback and the Republicans wrecked the economy there. And now people are angry at the party trying to help?

And so she went on a tear. I’ve cleaned up the typos but holy shit, you guys, Trump people live in a totally different world.

I’m glad HRC lost because I’m sick of her policies, principles, and her way of life which her supporters are clearly showing to be un-American IMHO. I didn’t like either candidate but no way would I ever vote for her.

HRC has lived off the system for decades. Billions donated to Haiti and not much went there. Why did HRC just move $1.8 billion to qatar? So American she didn’t want to leave the $$ here to be confiscated? And how about the Swiss bank accounts? How about the pedophile ring? Hmmm nice way of life promoting adultery, pedophilia, lying, getting fired from law firms for being unethical LOL.. working the system that’s for sure!!

When I pointed out that those were all lies, she replied with a link to a fake news site about a protest against Hillary over the Haitian earthquake relief effort. I acknowledged that the earthquake recovery was not well done, but that there was no evidence Hillary or the Clinton Foundation were the cause of it.

She sent a link to a New Yorker article about how Hillary’s donors are rich bankers and she has ties to Wall Street. Which, yes, major donors have big money. We know money is part of politics. I said we’ve read her emails and seen her tax returns, which is more than DJT has provided. She’s been far more transparent.

Her: Transparent HAHAH and no Trump’s not my boy but I have to respect who ever is Pres..

Me: How respectful of Obama were you?

Her: I didn’t vote for him and Obamacare has hurt me.. and his policies have hurt my business.. but he is/was the Pres and I didn’t riot, burn business etc. like you HRC supporters are.

Me: Yes, progressives are in the streets. But I don’t see them taking over a national park and threatening to shoot government employees. Protest – even rude and inconvenient protest – is valuable to remind the people in power that they don’t have free reign. And that’s why people are protesting.

But she just went on about immigrants costing us all money. Conspiracies about George Soros paying protestors. Got into a fight about abortion with someone else on the thread, claiming Trump wasn’t really going to cut abortion access. Claiming high property taxes that fund Medicaid hurt her business as a real estate broker,

And I gave up. I guess Northeastern liberals expected too much to hope Florida would do some research somewhere other than Infowars before casting a ballot.

So, I’m going to stop trying to “reach out” and “understand” and just go ahead and be angry.

I’m angry that someone’s going to put a climate denier in charge of the EPA and an evolution-denier in charge of education. I’m angry that people are opposed to immigration when a lot of my friends and co-workers are immigrants or the children of immigrants.

No, my friends aren’t “illegals,” although I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t have papers. But under Trump it will be a lot harder for them to stay, for their families to be here, for other great people to come here and be part of America. My co-workers are from Nepal, India, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Canada. They have come for work, or fleeing natural and manmade disasters, or because their parents came, or because they fell in love. They contribute to this country. They are on H1-B and O-1 visas or green cards or they are naturalized citizens. And there are some folks I don’t know well enough to ask, and it’s frankly none of my goddamn business. I’d love to have more immigration. I think immigrants are awesome. My great-grandfather was an immigrant and if he’d been turned away his whole family would have been destroyed in the WWI-era pogroms or the holocaust.

And I’m angry that Mike Pence is going to be doing a lot of domestic policy and that he thinks my gay and lesbian friends don’t deserve to have their families recognized. I’m angry that millions of people who got medicaid through the ACA are going to lose insurance. That if some jackhole rapes one of my friends, she won’t be able to get an abortion because Pence and co shut them all down and want to punish her.

I get that Trump supporters are angry. Because I’m not satisfied with the progress we made over the last 8 years. I get that people are hurting. I get that people think it’s a rigged system.

But even if you assume that “all politicians are corrupt” (we’ll see just how much more corrupt DJT is soon enough), look at the stated policies:

Trump is against immigration. He’s in favor of an impossible wall. He’s in favor of trade wars that could plunge the world economy into recession. He thinks NATO, the force which stabilized Europe post-WWII, isn’t worth the trouble. He thinks nuclear proliferation is dandy. He’s in favor of torture. He’s against health care for the poor. He’s in favor of tax cuts for the rich. He’s against abortion. He doesn’t believe in climate change. He’s in favor of gutting the EPA, he wants more coal and oil and less solar.

All of those things are demonstrably, objectively, dumb and bad.

So, yeah, I’m going to shame people who support him because “EMAILS!” or “THE ESTABLISHMENT” almost as much as I shame people who support him because they want their white country back from uppity negroes and foreigners and bitches who demand equality and queers who act all different.

I don’t care if you mean well. I don’t care if you’re “fundamentally good.” You’re supporting shameful shit and you should be ashamed.