Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SEASON 7, EPISODE 2.

(Mild spoilers.) Roger has left the orgy and it becomes clear that Don is who he pines for. His disappointment at the way Lou Avery, who has taken Don's office, receives his story about being called a kike is bad enough, but his own reaction to the news that Ogilvy picked up the Hershey account that Don blew is positively mournful. His misery trails him all through the episode -- it suffuses his "would it matter?" to Joan -- and into the elevator with Jim Cutler at the end of the day. It is my perhaps paranoid impression that Cutler is not dishing out human kindness when he suggests Joan drop office management and move up to the executive suite; I think he's exploiting a weakness in Roger's relationship with her, and the same office-warrior spirit animates his veiled warning to Roger about not wanting to have an adversary. I thought at first that Cutler was dull, but now I suspect he's just been lying doggo.

I might not have noticed Cutler's cuts had it not been for Joan's very different reasons for doing kindness in the episode. I doubt she's consciously fighting the bigotry behind the various idiotic reactions to the black secretaries in the office -- her line to Bert about firing Dawn for the color of her skin was not outrage but warning. She is sticking up for them, but Joan has neither the time nor the taste for crusades; she's being kind to them because no one else there deserves her kindness. Helping Dawn is justice to Joan, but not the kind toward which the arc of history bends. Joan reminds me in this episode of many people I've known who were monsters to everyone except a few people whom they unaccountably elevated. I think this is what she will become.

Whereas Peggy may just become a monster. Maybe they all will. It wouldn't be the first time a big-time series went that way. They aren't looking very good lately, these characters -- more or less happy, depending, but shits, basically. Maybe that's why Weiner let Dawn and Shirley talk so much. They're a refreshing change of pace.

Is Don an exception? So far he's just managed to tell his daughter a little bit of truth, looking like he just swallowed shit. I wasn't as impressed as some people with their scenes in this episode. The most disappointing thing about Don for years has been how little payoff there is to his self-examination. And he doesn't have much time left.

Which may be why I wonder: Will Pete every actually listen to a woman he's fucking?

ATTENTION CONSERVATIVES WHO WERE OUTRAGED OVER BRENDAN EICH:

If you thought it was liberal fascism for the Mozilla board to oust its CEO for an anti-gay contribution, now's your chance to it was all about principle: The Boy Scouts are revoking a charter over a gay scoutmaster. Go tell 'em they're Hitler!

UPDATE. "Oh Roy," says commenter keta. "You've a better chance of bottling a fart in a whirlwind than getting a conservative to remain consistent on 'principle.'" Yes, and you know, I was originally going to give this one a miss because I like to keep the tu quoque low in the mix. But it's a slow day. Also, I do have a fart in a bottle, harvested during a whirlwind, and its value just keeps going up.

UPDATE 2. Ah, serendipity -- ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© points out that Crooked Timber's John Quiggin just recently addressed the conservative tendency to make up bogus tu quoque arguments -- for instance, that "the left is just as anti-science as the right," a moronic claim that's become part of conservative theology.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...about the new Obamacare numbers and the brethren's sour reaction to them.

From the outtakes (because you know this stuff is rigorously edited), a further gloss on C. Christopher Agee's rant about the new Census health care questions at Western Journalism: Agee claimed "policy experts and journalists, many of whom are notoriously unsympathetic to conservative sentiments, have expressed outrage over the partisan move." In defense of this point Agee  cited... one guy: "Noah Rothman of the left-leaning Mediaite." Here are some headlines relevant to Rothman's unsympathy to conservative sentiments:
Rothman: The Intolerant Left’s Losing Streak
Rothman: MSNBC’s Most Embarrassing Mockery of Romney’s Russia Warnings
Mediate's Noah Rothman Roasts All Of MSNBC
Noah Rothman: Mainstream Media Unfairly Blame Right for Violence
Noah Rothman: Candy Crowley’s Debate Moderation Exemplifies Why Americans Do Not Trust Their Media
Etc. (I bet Mickey Kaus is reading this right now and thinking, "Yeah, so?")

Friday, April 18, 2014

EXTREMISM IN DEFENSE OF FREEBIES IS NO VICE.

When I wrote last weekend about the Bundy Ranch situation -- in which Sagebrush Rebels threatened U.S. federal officers with violence -- I noticed that though conservatives generally applauded the gunmen, the higher-placed ones tried to be cute about it, praising the revolutionary sentiments which they know animate the tricorns-and-treason segment of their base while briefly admitting that Bundy has broken and is flouting the law.

An interesting angle has been to excuse Bundy as a freedom fighter whose duty is higher than legal niceties. National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, for example, compares Bundy to Gandhi and George Washington. I don't remember Gandhi pulling a gun on his enemies, but I fell asleep in the middle of that long Ben Kingsley movie, so maybe I missed that part. As for Washington, I believe he was fighting tyrants to found a nation, to which he colleagues had pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their scared honor, whereas Bundy just wants something for nothing.

Williamson does attach a cause to Bundy's freeloading, suggesting the response should be "legislation that would oblige the federal government to divest itself of 1 percent of its land and other real estate each year for the foreseeable future through an open auction process." So Bundyism in his view is about taking resources that belong to all Americans and giving them to rich people -- that is, traditional conservatism -- and, in lieu of getting enough votes to do it legally, threatening violence -- that is, next-wave conservatism, otherwise known as fascism.

But the best so far is former Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes:
At the Bundy ranch: A 'Rosa Parks moment'?
Again, I didn't know Rosa Parks refused to pay her bus fare for 20 years and whipped out a gun when challenged, but I'm sure I don't read the same history books as they do.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A SIMPLE DESULTORY PHILIPPIC (OR HOW I WAS ANITA BRYANT'D INTO SUBMISSION).

These are great days for conservative paranoia. All days are, of course, but in the past after each bitter moan about liberal fascism there has usually been a concomitant mood-swing into delusional grandeur. Lately, however, it's all slave narratives from conservatives crushed under the heel of ObamaHitler. Yesterday we had the PJ Media guys telling us scientists are censoring them in furtherance of a liberal plot, and today I found a wild one in Stella Morabito at The Federalist, one of the right's shinier new meth labs.

In "Cults In Our Midst: Patty Hearst And The Brainwashing Of America," Morabito starts by lengthily recounting the horrible Hearst story: kidnapping, isolation, repeated rape, and "a coarse Maoist style program of indoctrination and re-education" in which she was told "that 'Amerikkka' was a racist and evil society, repeatedly calling her a privileged 'bourgeoise bitch' and her father a 'pig' of the 'corporate fascist state,'" which broke Hearst and turned her into Tania.

Regular readers will have already guessed that Morabito connects the closet-rape-Maoist-Amerikkka-fascist state program to mainstream Democratic values. Ah, but how she does it, that's the thing! Her first move is to link Hearst's brainwashing to that time "the White House launched a 'behavioral insights team' assigned with the task of 'improving policies' through insights into human behavior." I covered that "nudge squad" thing last year -- if that's mind-control, then so is advertising. Norabito seems to anticipate that normal people might feel that way, and so goes for the neckrub-that-becomes-a-headlock rhetorical twist:
We take as a given that political persuasion is part of public life. But likewise we take as a given that deliberate government manipulation of the populace using the techniques of unwitting or coercive persuasion represents a grave threat to our freedoms.
Tomato, to-mah-to. Later Norabito lists Margaret Thaler Singer's "six conditions that create an atmosphere conducive to coercive persuasion":
  • Keep the person unaware that there is an agenda to control or change the person and their thoughts
  • Control time and physical environment
  • Create a sense of powerlessness, fear, and dependency
  • Suppress old behavior and attitudes
  • Instill new behavior and attitudes
  • Put forth a closed system of logic.
And guess where she sees them at work:
The frightening realization is that these techniques work on mass audiences as well. We can see hints in the phenomenon we call “political correctness"...
No, wait, it gets better:
The seismic and manufactured public opinion “shift” on same sex marriage in the past several of years is a glaring example of how coercive persuasion works.
That's right -- America has been brainwashed gay-friendly. And you thought Will & Grace was just a funny TV show!
Label anyone who disagrees as a bigot or a "hater," a non-person. Reward those who agree with public accolades. Before you know it, even well-known old conservative pundits who fear becoming irrelevant sign on to it, and thus contribute to the juggernaut.
I hope she'll follow up by telling us how the same techniques turned a brainwashed nation against racial segregation. I mean, it can't have been anything else, right?

Conservatives are presently inclined to attribute any election they lose to America's majority of "low information voters." But Norabito points in a new direction: Maybe now when they lose, even in opinion polls, they'll tell themselves it's not because voters are stupid, it's because they're brainwashed! The real fun will come when try deprogramming the voters.

UPDATE. In comments, Roger Ailes and satch confess their gay brainwashing started with The Hollywood Squares. "Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly were not only funny," says satch, "but persuasive, making them early 'Choice Architects.' Damn those subversive game shows!!!"

Similarly, says coozledad, "I was a conservative until Hawkeye Pierce made Frank Burns look like an asshole."

Meanwhile mortimer finds a Morabito essay on Cosmos. Excerpt:
This is propaganda of the crudest sort, reminiscent of how Stalin’s Soviet Union characterized non-communists, or how the Hutus of Rwanda characterized the Tutsis, or, most famously, how the Third Reich characterized Jews.
I'd say, "I'll have to start following Morabito," but I fear she wouldn't accept I meant this in the traditional sense of reading her work as it comes out, and assume that I was tailing her for ObamaHitler.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NOTHING MEANS NOTHING ANYMORE.

At PJ Media, Rand Simberg headlines,
We are all scientists
and uses a cute, familiar routine to demonstrate this ("If you’ve ever gone through a thought process like that in dealing with a life situation, congratulations! You are a scientist"). But Simberg isn't really trying to make his readers appreciate the scientific method: He's mainly running a new angle on the traditional conservative argument that scientists who see a trend toward climate change that should be addressed are all just lying for liberalism.

Simberg says a sentence (!) in a USA Today story about some environmental official who tweeted a climate skeptic message "would seem to imply that only 'scientists' (however the reporter defines it) are allowed to be skeptical about scientific theories" -- though the story implies no such thing. Taking off from this overwrought imputation of censorship, he really starts working the dry ice machine and thunder sheets:
When we are not allowed to discuss issues that involve policy actions that could have devastating effects on the world’s economy because we are not part of an apparently credentialed priesthood, we are not being allowed to even debate science, let alone deny it. We are instead apparently apostates in a new non-theistic, but very powerful religion, complete with believers, heretics, sin and indulgences, who must be silenced.
Many, many climate skeptics publish in the popular press, and in fact one of our two major parties has gone total climate-change denialist, despite the embargo of the liberal-fascist scientists. Yet Simberg concludes:
Which simply shows that sometimes, just as war is too important to be left to the generals, science can be too important to be left to the “scientists.”
Elsewhere in the same venue Frank J. Fleming, an alleged humorist (Jonah Goldberg is a fan, which tells all), headlines
There Are No Such Things as 'Scientists'
The ensuing article is more or less the same as Simberg's except with something resembling jokes. It begins with a similar exercise to Simberg's ("Find a book. Hold it over the floor. Now release it. Write down what you observe. Boom! You’ve just become a scientist") and proceeds  to the conclusion that you can't trust guys who snootily insist they're using empirical data to form rational conclusions about the physical universe:
Now all of this isn’t meant to belittle science, which is a great process by which we discover facts about the world around us; you should probably make use of it yourself. This is, though, meant to belittle scientists, who are just people, and if you’ve ever been around people, you know they’re easily biased and prone to arrogance and error, and thus everything they say should be taken with a grain of salt.
These articles demonstrate how far conservative thought has come on this subject. It's not just promoting the idea that a cadre of whitecoats is trying to destroy America with false, liberal information, perversely ignoring the far greater bribes oil and gas companies can offer them. It further suggests that any time some guy with a sheepskin tries to tell you what's what, you should mistrust him as a matter of course, because he's no more likely than any other snake-oil salesman to be telling the truth. Why should he? They only spend years in school so they can collect Obamabribes and sneer at good folk like you 'n' me. Once upon a time, when they were taking us to the moon and inventing boner pills, scientists could be trusted; but now that most of them have come to conclusions that are injurious to Republican campaign donors' interests, they're just another bunch of moochers.

And they wonder why kids aren't taking STEM classes.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

SEASON 7, EPISODE 1.

(Mild spoilers.) Don Draper remains a rock with a few cracks. I thought his breakdown at the Hershey pitch presaged a big change, and maybe it will turn out to have done. But this episode only suggests a change in his tactics: he's still copywriting, albeit sub rosa, which suits his hidden nature; he's still opaque with everyone; the only observable change is he hasn't balled anyone he isn't married to yet, and it's not entirely clear that he won't. I don't think his turndown of the widow on the plane (Neve Campbell, perfectly modish and intriguingly abstracted) was a sign of maturity. (Don can always talk to women.) I just think he couldn't take the distraction. I like that he says "I have to go to work" so often -- for one thing it reminds me of "Batdance"; for another, it makes me interested in his plan, which I'm guessing is bigger than sharing freelance money with Freddie; and for another, it's interesting that Don has always been better off in his work than at the agency -- now that the agency won't have him, maybe he'll do something interesting.

Have I just been mystified by the Don/Megan relationship too long, or are they supposed to be absolutely unsuited to one another?

Pete Campbell gets more interesting all the time. It makes sense that he's dressing like an ambitious casting assistant and talking about vibrations; he's always a little strained about finding his bliss. When's his orgy?

Speaking of which, I think Roger's pleasure chamber is looking a little sepulchral. He said something once about being a curious child. I sense him running out of curiosities. If his daughter's cult conversion doesn't do something profound to him I'll be disappointed.

I hope the Joan arc isn't "men are pigs" all season long.

Isn't it something that Peggy is so miserable, and looks for relief by selling a pitch she doesn't know is Don's? And that her and Don's miseries end the episode?

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES.

John Hinderaker further explains his support for the Bundy Ranch.
Some have claimed that Harry Reid is behind the BLM’s war against Cliven Bundy, on the theory that he wants the land for a solar project in which his son Rory is involved, along with the Chinese. I don’t believe this is correct. The solar projects are located north of Las Vegas, 30 miles or so from the area where Bundy ranches.
But the connection is nevertheless important in two respects.
Stop to take that in for a moment: Hinderaker says the militiamen's argument is insupportable, but now Hinderaker is going to tell you why the argument nonetheless remains relevant.

First, he says, the government's favored tortoise-protection area is where Bundy wants to graze without paying; "So it is possible that the federal government is driving Bundy off federal lands to make way for mitigation activities that enable the solar energy development to the north. But I don’t think it is necessary to go there." ("Don’t think it is necessary to go there," by the way, is Lawyerly for "I withdraw the question, I just wanted to smear the witness within the hearing of the jury.")

"The second and more important point," per Hinderaker:
...it is obvious that some activities are favored by the Obama administration’s BLM, and others are disfavored. The favored developments include solar and wind projects. No surprise there: the developers of such projects are invariably major Democratic Party donors. Wind and solar energy survive only by virtue of federal subsidies, so influencing people like Barack Obama and Harry Reid is fundamental to the developers’ business plans. Ranchers, on the other hand, ask nothing from the federal government other than the continuation of their historic rights. It is a safe bet that Cliven Bundy is not an Obama or Reid contributor.
So though there's no proof that Obama and Reid illegally rigged it so Bundy would lose his access to the government land, the fact that something happened that Obama and Reid would like is proof of... well, that something happened that Cliven Bundy and John Hinderaker don't like.

The remainder is just old-fashioned ressentiment: "And their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don’t develop apps. They don’t ask for food stamps... They aren’t illegal immigrants," etc. In the end, this argument isn't based on the law -- nor even, oddly, on the legitimate idea that the law should be changed -- but on the notion that if some rightwing sovereign-citizen nut dressed as Ronald Reagan feels bad about something, that proves America has gone all to hell.

I'm surprised that allegedly respectable writers (Time's Blog of the Year back in 1964) are embarrassing themselves this way. Maybe they think they'd better be nice to the nuts because they're all they have left.

UPDATE. Comments have gotten pretty good, with one fellow coming in to lay some Hard Truth on everybody -- apparently it's really all about water rights, which Bundy himself hasn't asserted (he's more voluble about not recognizing the authority of the U.S. government). As you might expect, the fellow winds up yelling about Al Sharpton and telling other commenters to "get on yer knees and do what ya do best." These guys really don't like being laughed at.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

NEW VILLAGE VOICE COLUMN UP...

...about the Bundy Ranch shenanigans and rightblogger reactions. I'm not sure which is the most fun part: watching the smaller bloggers holler for moar armed insurrection, or watching the top dogs trying not to get too far ahead of the curve lest they lose their shot at a walled garden at the Washington Post after this whole thing blows over.