Monday, July 06, 2015

The Authority Cows

Sometimes we who are not invited to C-Span panels on the "Future of the New York Times" with Dean Baquet and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. wonder why in the world certain Very Bad Writers continue to enjoy the bounty and favor and institutional protection that comes with a job-for-life on the the New York Times op-ed page.

And then, sometimes in the middle of answering a discussion about "branding" (summary: Doesn't the NYT risk writers building their own brand while in the climate-controlled, fertilizer-rich Times' greenhouse and then taking their brand and moving on to better things once they're big enough to make it on their own?) they answer that question (audio only and not embeddable so I'm not sure who is saying what -- jump to the 1:26:30 mark):
Well and it also works both ways.


It is when a Tom Friedman writes a best-selling book it lends authority to his columns on the New York Times editorial page.

Or David Brooks!

Great.  Right.  First...number one on best-seller list.
Dean Baquet and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. never wonder why certain Very Bad Writers continue to enjoy the bounty and favor and institutional protection of their newspaper, because very formation of such a question would be incomprehensible to them.  To them, Brooks and Friedman are "authority cows", who consistently generate a positive flow of credibility into the Times in the same way a "cash cow" consistently generates profit.

Cocooned by money and privilege and a wholly self-referential system which tells them how righteous they are, our media overlords simply do not live in the same world as the rest of us.

And they never will.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sunday Morning Comin' Down

Shuck Todd Versus Monster Zero.

Everyone got their respective rocks off on "Meet the Press" this Sunday.  Well, everyone but the American public, but hey, fuck those guys.

Chuck Todd got to pretend to be a journalist by swinging at the air and asking Ted Cruz the same question, literally, six different times:
CHUCK TODD:  So let's go to immigration. What do you do with the 11 million?

CHUCK TODD:  What do you do with the 11 million people though? Do you have to send 'em back, or do you give them a way to get legal?

CHUCK TODD:   I understand that it's divisive. But the-- it's still a problem.

CHUCK TODD:   That's fine. But explain how you do it?

CHUCK TODD:   You still didn't say what you'd do with the 11 million.

CHUCK TODD:   So anything's on the table? Potentially deportation or not deportation, but anything's on the table for the 11 million
Which, in turn, gave Failgunner Ted Cruz -- who clearly had absolutely no intention whatsoever of answering any questions put to him by Shuck Todd -- a chance to dance around and make his swine base squeal with delight by jabbing slow, leadfoot stumblebum Todd over and over again by first rejecting the premise of the question --
TED CRUZ: Chuck, I don't accept the premise that you have to solve every aspect of this problem all at once...
-- and then tagging anyone who had the temerity of raising the question at all as a Washington insider with a secret, anti-American agenda:
TED CRUZ: ... President Obama and the Democrats focus on that issue because the question you're asking is the most divisive partisan question in this entire debate. And I don't believe President Obama wants to solve this.

TED CRUZ: ... And here's the sad truth. A lot of Republicans in the Washington cartel, they're all for amnesty too because from the perspective of the Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street, it's cheap labor.

TED CRUZ: ... Stop using the Washington approach of I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. The American people aren't going for it.
Then, apparently having run out of different ways to ask the same, stupid question, Shuck let Cruz ramble on for awhile about what an awesome guy he is.  Sure, he used to be a cocky, brilliant kid who was too full of himself...
TED CRUZ:   Well, look I discuss the time I spent back in 1999 and 2000 on the Bush campaign. And I was a young man in my twenties. I'd-- I'd enjoyed a lotta success. Almost everything I'd laid my hands to had gone well. And-- and I was far too cocky for my own good...
But then he learned Many Valuable Life Lessons!  Just like they talk about in Country and/or Western Music!
TED CRUZ:  Well, it's interesting. My wife Heidi thinks that it changed my personality in a very fundamental way. And one of the things I talk about in the book is, you know, a terrific country and western song Some of God'sGreatest Gifts are Unanswered Prayers...
 Lloyd George once said of Winston Church­ill that "He would make a drum of out of the skin of his own mother in order to sound his own praises."  Failgunner Ted has made an entire marching band out of bullshit and ego, and Shuck Todd let him strut it right on through the "Meet the Press" studio and into your living room.

Then, right on the verge of thinking up a seventh way of offering Cruz a chance to breeze past the same question he had already blow off six times...
CHUCK TODD:  Senator Cruz, I gotta leave it there. We could've gone another half hour just on foreign policy. So I hope to have you back.

TED CRUZ:  Excellent.
Excellent indeed.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Professional Left Podcast #291


"The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it."
-- Edward R. Murrow


Thursday, July 02, 2015

Donald Trump Is The GOP

Otherwise bright professional people seem shocked that Donald Trump is doing as well as he is. 

Which is weird.

Because if you have watched the GOP dumbspiral down, down, down for the last 40 years from anyplace other than inside the Beltway bubble, Trump making a strong early showing is a perfectly logical next step.  He is Crazy Uncle Liberty with money: a braying moron, invincibly confident in his own racist and impregnably ignorant opinions. 

And yet, somehow, Jonathan Chait is mystified that "conservative leaders" would rally to his defense (emphasis added):
Why Are Conservatives Defending Donald Trump?

By Jonathan Chait

It is not politically significant that Donald Trump would claim to be running for president, that he would say something flamboyantly ignorant, or that he would “surge” to “second place” in polls by using his name recognition to get into double digits in a splintered field. What is significant and genuinely disturbing, not to mention poisonous to the Republican Party’s electoral interests, is the fact that conservative thought leaders feel compelled to defend Trump’s nativist ramblings.  And not just bottom-feeding outlets like the Daily Caller and Breitbart, either. National Review editor Rich Lowry writes in Politico that Trump “has a point.”...
Do I think that Trump will emerge as the nominee?  Of course not.  The crackpot right-wing billionaires who own the GOP will eventually bulldoze Jeb(!) into the lead and, eventually, they'll take him into a back room and explain to him what a super duper idea it would be to pick a government-gutting Scott Walker-type cipher as his VP.  The Base will grump and grumble a little, but eventually they'll do whatever Fox News tells them to do.

But now is the time for dreaming, and when the wingnut Base dreams their batshit little dreams, they sound just like Donald Trump at full boil.   

And if Mr. Chait's software is really so scrambled that he can't identify Rich Lowry as just another bottom-feeding Conservative hatemonger, well then I believe we have located the source of his confusion.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sunday Morning Comin' Down

"The Second Hundred Years" Edition

This was a week of miracles piled on historical moments moving so whipcrack fast it was hard to take it all in, so it is right and proper to set aside the soul-sucking bothsiderburgers which the Sunday Gasbag Cavalcade serves up in favor of spending your time and emotional energy celebrating so many Progressive victories coming back-to-back.

As such, I will keep it brief.  Just a note to ask that you be attentive in the coming weeks and months to the strategy which the Party of Jefferson Davis is now deploying to contain their little white supremacy problem: a pawn sacrifice.

Sure, yeah, the American Swastika sucks and it's high time to haul it down.  Hey, maybe it's even time to consider rechristening some of our roads and bridges which are currently named for the Confederacy's most famous general (David Brooks "The Robert E. Lee Problem"):
Lowering the Confederate flag from public properties is thus an easy call. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Southern heritage and Southern life without choosing one so enmeshed in the fight to preserve slavery.

The harder call concerns Robert E. Lee. Should schools and other facilities be named after the great Confederate general, or should his name be removed and replaced?
And after much backing --
The case for Lee begins with his personal character. It is almost impossible to imagine a finer and more considerate gentleman.

As a general and public figure, he was a man of impeccable honesty, integrity and kindness. As a soldier, he displayed courage from the beginning of his career straight through to the end...
and forthing ---
The case against Lee begins with the fact that he betrayed his oath to serve the United States. He didn’t need to do it. The late historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor demonstrated that 40 percent of Virginia officers decided to remain with the Union forces, including members of Lee’s family...
-- Mr. Brooks magnanimously arrives at the same conclusion reached by most non-Dixiecrats generations ago:
My own view is that we should preserve most Confederate memorials out of respect for the common soldiers. We should keep Lee’s name on institutions that reflect postwar service, like Washington and Lee University, where he was president. But we should remove Lee’s name from most schools, roads and other institutions, where the name could be seen as acceptance of what he did and stood for during the war.
Well, bully for him!  And thank you, Mr. Brooks, for tracing the outlines of the real battlefield.

Because while Conservatives are now willing sacrifice a scrap of cloth and perhaps even the names of a few public buildings to provisionally acknowledge that America's record on race and civil rights from, oh, let's say (just to pick a number), 1861 until, say, 1962 was pretty terrible...

...they are all loudly and conspicuously silent about the fact that the core ideology of the Confederacy -- the hate and terror which the American Swastika represents -- has been processed and refined and forged into a Ring of Electoral Power which has been handed down generation after generation like a family heirloom right up to the present day.

So while we apparently can all now get together and call for the furling of a flag and the rechristening of some roads and schools, what shall we say about the cultural movement and electoral strategy which has been carefully mortared together out of that hate and denial?  Where do men like Mr. Brooks stand on the issue of  modern day Republican -- a Reagan, let us say, or a Nixon -- gathering up the dark and terrible power inherent in that reverence for the South's bloody, toxic past for use as a present-day licence to print money and battering ram to drive the worst people in America into elected office?

Because as every modern day member of the Conservative brain caste knows damn well, we don't really have a "Robert E. Lee Problem".

But we sure as hell do have a "Harvey LeRoy 'Lee' Atwater Problem" (from The Nation)
Exclusive: Lee Atwater’s Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy

The forty-two-minute recording, acquired by James Carter IV, confirms Atwater’s incendiary remarks and places them in context. 
Rick Perlstein November 13, 2012
So where do men like America's most famous Spokesmodel for Humility and Morality stand on this issue?  The one which has been the single most important and morally depraved component of their entire political movement for their entire adult lives?

Funny you should ask.

Here is Mr. Brooks from 2007 in the New York Times, jettisoning all pretext of modesty and humility and back in full Weekly Standard mode, up on his hind legs and berating anyone who would dare suggest that the modern Republican Party has a little problem with racism:
History and Calumny

Today, I’m going to write about a slur. It’s a distortion that’s been around for a while, but has spread like a weed over the past few months. It was concocted for partisan reasons: to flatter the prejudices of one side, to demonize the other and to simplify a complicated reality into a political nursery tale.

The distortion concerns a speech Ronald Reagan gave during the 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., which is where three civil rights workers had been murdered 16 years earlier. An increasing number of left-wing commentators assert that Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign with a states’ rights speech in Philadelphia to send a signal to white racists that he was on their side. The speech is taken as proof that the Republican majority was built on racism.
Over the course of the next few days, Mr. Brooks  has his ass absolutely sawed off and served up on the good china pretty much everyone who dwelt in the sunny lands beyond the Fox News bubble and could wield a keyboard and
Bob Herbert:
The campaign debuted at the Neshoba County Fair in front of a white and, at times, raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000, chanting: “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”

Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”

Reagan apologists have every right to be ashamed of that appearance by their hero, but they have no right to change the meaning of it, which was unmistakable. Commentators have been trying of late to put this appearance by Reagan into a racially benign context.

That won’t wash. Reagan may have been blessed with a Hollywood smile and an avuncular delivery, but he was elbow deep in the same old race-baiting Southern strategy of Goldwater and Nixon.

Everybody watching the 1980 campaign knew what Reagan was signaling at the fair. Whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans — they all knew. The news media knew. The race haters and the people appalled by racial hatred knew. And Reagan knew.

He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.

And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.
Paul Krugman:
So there’s a campaign on to exonerate Ronald Reagan from the charge that he deliberately made use of Nixon’s Southern strategy. When he went to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, the town where the civil rights workers had been murdered, and declared that “I believe in states’ rights,” he didn’t mean to signal support for white racists. It was all just an innocent mistake.

Indeed, you do really have to feel sorry for Reagan. He just kept making those innocent mistakes.

When he went on about the welfare queen driving her Cadillac, and kept repeating the story years after it had been debunked, some people thought he was engaging in race-baiting. But it was all just an innocent mistake.

When, in 1976, he talked about working people angry about the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks at the grocery store, he didn’t mean to play into racial hostility. True, as the New York Times reported.

The ex-Governor has used the grocery-line illustration before, but in states like New Hampshire where there is scant black population, he has never used the expression “young buck,” which, to whites in the South, generally denotes a large black man.
And my own, humble, four-part effort here ("A Rose for Bobo: Part 1") which includes link to a buncha other vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers of the Left, including the late Steve Gilliard:
Which demonstrates, if nothing else, the true, sad state of American journalism: that a deceased and relatively obscure blogger named Steven Gilliard is still a vastly more vital, thoughtful, passionate and powerful writer from inside the Narrow House than is the allegedly-living New York Times columnist named David Brooks.

And which, in the end, leaves nothing left standing to debunk or refute.

Indeed all of the above would be an embarrassingly one-sided exercise in bouncing the rubble of where Bobo’s career used to be were it not for this simple fact: Bobo still works for the NYT.

Punching most days so desperately far out of his intellectual weight class that he can barely climb up the Big Boy stairs into the ring, Bobo nonetheless continues to punch clock every damned day on the most valuable piece of real estate at the New York Fucking Times.

He worked for them last year.

Works for them this year.

Will work for them next year.

And through the smoke of Hellfire prose tearing his idiocy to flinders, this became the part of the story-behind-the-story which began to fascinate me.

End Part 1 of 4.

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3
Click here for Part 4
And after all of that rain of "Hellfire prose"?


No correction.  No emendation.  No apologies.  No penalty for continuing to peddle these horrific lies.

Instead, like virtually every other Conservative in America,  when confronted with the blunt and irrefutable history of modern Conservatism, Mr. Brooks just turns around and runs away.

Deny, deny, deny and move into the next thing.

Well, the next thing has arrived as next things always do, and rather than daring to refight the battle of Saint Reagan and the Southern Strategy, these days, like virtually every other Conservative in America, Mr. Brooks opts to just skip completely over the last half century of American history and talk about the safely long ago and far away.

So what has any of this to do with the Sunday Mouse Circus?

Because it brings me around at last to this almost unnoticed quote from none other than Mr. Newton Leroy "Advocate of civilization, Definer of civilization, Teacher of the rules of civilization, Arouser of those who form civilization, Organizer of the pro-civilization activists and Leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces" Gingrich himself on Meet the Press, which sums up everything awful about the whole wretched weekly carnival of Beltway navel-gazing and radical denialism better than almost anything (emphasis added at no additional charge):

Are you comfortable with the flag the way it is now? You know, it is modeled, it is the original Confederate flag, just with the Georgia seal on it, the way it's modeled.


I think that may well be changed now that people are into a new cycle. But let me tell you what I think is crazy. It's crazy for Amazon to come along and say, "Here is an educational game about Gettysburg, which is used widely in schools to teach people to think." And by the way, it has a Confederate versus an American flag, and therefore they've taken the game out of Amazon. Now there's a point here however we begin to get towards Orwell's memory hole, in which we try to hide from the past. I think it's one thing to say you should not have a symbol which is very offensive to a large part of your population, it's another thing to say, "Let's erase our history and pretend it never occurred."


Well look.


So what is that balance?
The fact that the entire Republican Party has long since moved into a gated Assisted Living Community in the lowest circle of Orwell's Memory Hole is what makes this little moment so rare and wonderful.

The fact that no one thought to mention that Newt Gingrich has been the Nancy Faust of the wingnut racist dog-whistle pipe-organ since he rose from the swamps of Georgia --

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

-- is what made it art.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Crazy Snake Continues To Swallow Itself

The fight over which Republican gets to run for Disgraced Wingnut Congressman and One-Time Future Savior of the GOP, Aaron Schock, keeps getting funnier.  From the State Journal-Register:
The special primary elections to pick major-party candidates to replace former Republican U.S. Rep. AARON SCHOCK in the 18th Congressional District are just more than a week away.
So perhaps it wasn't a surprise that an opponent would find fault after a news conference last week at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce office in Springfield to announce endorsements of state Sen. DARIN LaHOOD, R-Peoria, by that group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
MIKE FLYNN, a Quincy native and now a resident there who has lived in the Washington area for 20 years and who founded the website with ANDREW BREITBART, criticized the endorsement.
"If you love big bank bailouts, loved the (BARACK) OBAMA stimulus, love corporate welfare for big defense contractors, and loved Obama's executive amnesty, then evidently, you should vote for Darin LaHood," Flynn said in a prepared statement aimed at what his campaign indicated were chamber policies. "If you're for limited government, lower taxes, free market competition, and securing the border first, then it's clear: You should vote for me."
ROB ENGSTROM, senior vice president and national political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who was at the endorsement event, later responded: "Mike Flynn's comments are confusing, given that he actively sought the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's endorsement on May 18. In doing so, he affirmed that he supports the U.S. Chamber's mission, which is to advocate for American free enterprise.
"Washington has enough politicians who say one thing in private and do another in the public arena," Engstrom continued. "The fact is that Mr. Flynn's nonexistent campaign isn't gaining any traction, and he is getting desperate."...
Shine on you crazy diamonds!

Friday, June 26, 2015


Brother Charlie Pierce sums up the reaction at our house to Barack Obama taking America to "chutch", as my former grandmother-in-law, a grand lady of the AME church, used to say:
So when the president got to that part when he recited "Amazing Grace" -- with spontaneous arpeggios from the organist! -- it seemed to me that he had gone a long way to summoning up at last the whole point of electing him president in the first place. He grabbed every live wire, unafraid. He went off on a riff about the Confederate flag that talked about how it represented to the people at the ceremony something more than heritage. (This got the organist and the guitarist going again.)

"The cause of slavery was wrong. The imposition of Jim Crow after the civil war, the resistance to civil rights for all people, was wrong...By taking down that flag, we express God's grace...We're guarding ourselves not just against racial slurs, but against calling Johnny back for a job interview, but not Jamal. We search our hearts when we consider laws that make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote...By doing that we express God's grace.

"We talk a lot about race. There's no short cut. We don't need more talk...It would be a disservice to Reverend Pinckney if we were to slip back into a comfortable silence...My liberty depends on your being free, too."
No president has spoken like that on this country's original sin since Lyndon Johnson told the Congress we would overcome and, before that, since Lincoln. This eulogy, this moment, is why the country elected this guy twice. And anyone who stands up and talks about how he "politicized" this funeral is going to have to account for all that applause, and for how the organist and the guitarist kept getting overcome by the Spirit, and they're going to have to account for the moment in which he sang "Amazing Grace," off-key but with the fervency of a prophet. No president, ever. Not like that.

Professional Left Podcast #290


"Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
-- Albert Camus

  • Anthea Butler: The decision to forgive is rooted in faith. The desire to forget is rooted in racism. 

Sometimes The Good Guys Win

This may be the only time I link to Mr. Andrew Sullivan without exasperated comment.  But today is the day the Supreme Court said that all Americans can to marry who they love, and that have the absolute right to have that marriage recognized no matter where they live.  This is a cause for which Mr. Sullivan and many others have been fighting hard for a very long time and against very long odds and I am so very glad for him and for all Americans who have been cheated out of this basic human right for so long that this day has finally come.

I think of the gay kids in the future who, when they figure out they are different, will never know the deep psychic wound my generation – and every one before mine – lived through: the pain of knowing they could never be fully part of their own family, never befully a citizen of their own country. I think, more acutely, of the decades and centuries of human shame and darkness and waste and terror that defined gay people’s lives for so long. And I think of all those who supported this movement who never lived to see this day, who died in the ashes from which this phoenix of a movement emerged. This momentous achievement is their victory too – for marriage, as Kennedy argued, endures past death. 
I never believed this would happen in my lifetime when I wrote my first several TNR essays and then my book, Virtually Normal, and then the anthology and the hundreds and hundreds of talks and lectures and talk-shows and call-ins and blog-posts and articles in the 1990s and 2000s. I thought the book, at least, would be something I would have to leave behind me – secure in the knowledge that its arguments were, in fact, logically irrefutable, and would endure past my own death, at least somewhere. I never for a millisecond thought I would live to be married myself. Or that it would be possible for everyone, everyone in America. 
But it has come to pass. All of it. In one fell, final swoop. 
Know hope.