Friday, August 28, 2015

FRIDAY 'ROUND THE HORN.



Maybe I should see them tonight? Everything I've heard is good.

•   I recently noted Ross Douthat's attempt to portray the Donald Trump phenomenon as a boon to reform conservatism (i.e., the latest rightwing nerd jobs program). It appears the longer this thing goes on, the more slide-rule boys rush to offer their services. At the Weekly Standard, after some pro-forma yak about what a boor Trump is, Christopher Caldwell tells that Trump's "economic critique" -- yes, he's talking about Trump's brayings, to which he'd referred a paragraph earlier as "talking about how filthy rich the filthy rich are" -- "fits into a sophisticated attack on the present state of presidential campaign finance." Not sophisticated itself, mind you, but it fits into something sophisticated, just as Trump himself may be fitted into a $5,000 suit. Then, at Slate, Reihan Salam has all kinds of exciting ideas for Trump. Apparently inspired by single-issue candidate Larry Lessig's praise of Trump as a campaign finance reformer, Salam suggests Trump embrace Lessig's program, as this "would add intellectual heft to [Trump's] populism, which would force his media detractors to give him at least some begrudging respect." I don't know what's funnier: the idea of Trump's campaign acquiring "intellectual heft," or that of Trump showing respect for an egghead like Lessig who doesn't have his own private jet and probably eats in a school cafeteria like a schlub. Funniest of all, perhaps, is the idea of these pencil-necks hovering around Trump, telling themselves that if only they can press their policy papers into the paws of the Strongman, the Golden Dawn may be hastened.

•   And what can make Trump talk worse? Peggy Noonan! Today she explains Peggy Noonan through the avatar of that Non-Partisan Nameless Friend:
I’ve written before about an acquaintance—late 60s, northern Georgia, lives on Social Security, voted Obama in ’08, not partisan, watches Fox News, hates Wall Street and “the GOP establishment.” She continues to be so ardent for Mr. Trump that she not only watched his speech in Mobile, Ala., on live TV, she watched while excitedly texting with family members—middle-class, white, independent-minded—who were in the audience cheering. Is that “the Republican base”?
Hope so -- it'll be easy to beat an imaginary constituency. Also, Hispanics love Trump, Noonan's friend "Cesar" from the bodega tells her:
Immigrants, he said, don’t like illegal immigration, and they’re with Mr. Trump on anchor babies. “They are coming in from other countries to give birth to take advantage of the system. We are saying that! When you come to this country, you pledge loyalty to the country that opened the doors to help you..." 
I will throw in here that almost wherever I’ve been this summer, I kept meeting immigrants who are or have grown conservative—more men than women, but women too.
Take Peggy Noonan's word to the bank: Your neighbors from the DR, Trinidad, Sudan, Chile, Vietnam -- they're all raring to vote Republican so long as the party nominates a suitably aggressive TV clown.  Morton Downey Jr. gazes on this from the Hereafter and sighs at what might have been.

•   Stella Morabito, the craziest shrink since Robin of Berkeley, is back to tell us how PC is destroying everything by preventing sensible conservative discourse, like how horrible Caitlyn Jenner is:
A perfect example is how the transgender lobby has saturated the media and pop culture with its talking points through Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and incessant Hollywood shilling. Suppression is the PC practice of quashing ideas that compete with the PC message, usually through speech codes, shout-downs, or smears... The twin processes of saturation and suppression, if diligently applied, can produce the illusion of a public opinion shift, or a “cascade.”
Fans of Morabito's work will understand that these "cascades" are bad because they make you accept homosexuals:
Consider how the Left’s propaganda machine manufactured an “opinion cascade” on the issue of same-sex marriage, by first using “surprising validator” conservatives like Vice President Dick Cheney, polling pundit Michael Barone, and especially David Blankenhorn, who was one of the most persuasive and powerful supporters of organic marriage until he broke down and published a recantation. Not surprisingly, stealth conservatives—particularly those who work in increasingly politicized professions such as psychiatry, social work, teaching, or the arts—have enormous potential if they come out as surprising validators.
Amazing what how much gay-PC we've accomplished thanks to stealth conservatives like Dick Cheney, eh? (Though personally I think it was the recantation of David Blankenhorn that really turned things around for us.)

Anyway Morabito bids her readers go out and make their own cascades:
So conservatives, engage in those polarized, gridlocked places—like the neighborhood picnic, the local swim club, the farmer’s market, the student union, etc.—and engage one on one. Come out to a neighbor or a classmate.
Oh boy! Is this where we say "I hate faggots" and wait for everyone else to do the same, like Spartacus?
Don’t bother with talking points, because the purpose is not to win the argument but to simply to put a human face on your beliefs. 
Just be who you are and be friendly. In today’s PC-saturated culture, that’s the only way to draw out the lonely like-minded person or to influence a fence-sitter. It’s also the only way to water down PC stereotypes of conservatives. Ultimately, it’s the only way to start those ripple effects that can create cascades of truth.
Wait a minute -- your war against PC is to be nice? I gotta tell ya: 1.) If that's the plan, every other anti-PC conservative I've seen has definitely got the instructions upside-down; and 2.) If your goal is to get people to like you, maybe dispense with the hysterical columns for starters?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

FRIEND OF THE WORKING MAN.

In 2013 Katrina Trinko told USA Today readers that, instead of raising the minimum wage to help those moocher fast-food workers make a living, right-thinking consumers should "pressure fast-food companies to allow tip jars, so that people who wanted to pass on more to the workers had a way to do so." Well, big cities are still raising the wage, and Trinko has turned around, in a way: At Acculturated she now says she'll even countenance the evil of a minimum wage hike if it's used as a substitute for tipping in restaurants.

It's neither an obviously terrible nor an unheard-of idea. Is Trinko attempting conservative outreach to working people in election season? She certainly expects to benefit from a no-tip world herself: "I’m ready for relaxing dinners that don’t end with me having to calculate percentages." And she makes a feint at arguing that the waiters would benefit, too:
Imagine getting a performance review from someone who had worked with you part of one day (a day that might or might not be typical of your experience), and who likely knew little to nothing about your job. Most of us would (rightfully!) protest. We’d point out that the person simply wasn’t qualified to rate how well or poorly we did our job.
But the more she talks about it, the clearer it becomes that she's not worried that this poor performance metric harms waiters; she's mainly concerned that it's inefficient ("the data show that when it comes to judging the excellence of restaurant servers, we are lousy"). The real object of her concern comes out in a passage I'm surprised they left in:
Businesses have other ways besides tips to hold workers accountable for customer service. When I worked at Borders (R.I.P, non-virtual bookstore), managers constantly observed our interactions with customers, and mystery shoppers and callers made sure we stayed on our best behavior.
See, there's an alternative model! You get the feeling that Trinko is more concerned waiters might be getting away with something than that they might be under-compensated -- like she saw the scene from The Grapes of Wrath where the truckers leave a large tip for a waitress ("What's it to ya?"), and her face burned at the injustice of it.

Coincidentally, I saw a story in MIT Technology Review today about workers on a construction project "being monitored by drones and software that can automatically flag slow progress." It includes one of the more depressing gifs I've seen in a while:


Again, getting rid of tipping might be great, and feel free to debate it in comments. But I am very aware that the scene above is what innovation generally means to the people who cut paychecks, and that's why, when people like Trinko make even reasonable-sounding neoliberal proposals about improving the world of work, I keep my guard up. 

UPDATE. Comments are very sharp; among the tales of woe from the New Workplace, derelict's:
But that, I guess, is not as bad as what one of my sister-in-laws put up with when she worked for Ameritech. They forced all employees to go on "retreats" at which the employee's personality was broken and remade into what the company wanted it to be--pliable, conformist, unquestioning. The "counselors" used the same techniques that cults use. The company did not simply demand that you do your job competently--it demanded your soul, the totality of your being in exchange for a paycheck, some meager benefits, and the knowledge that you could be terminated with no notice at any moment.
There are several references to Taylorism and the cult of efficiency (I'm surprised no one brought up Modern Times). The abovelinked article contains this apposite journal quote:
The last quarter of the twentieth century has seen an erosion of job security in both manual and professional occupation… employee involvement schemes in manual production and the growth of temporary employment, outsourcing and project-based teams in the professions have influenced working conditions in both settings… these practices represent not a departure from scientific management, as is often presumed, but rather the adoption of Taylorist principles that were not fully manifested in the era of mass production.
The authors refer to this revival as neo-Taylorism, but I'm more partial to the term neo-Feudalism, as it makes more vivid the respective roles and conditions of serf and baron.

A few commenters lingered over Trinko's claim that she yearned for relief from the awful burden of calculating a tip, which strikes them and me as rich. Commenter Gabriel Ratchet says he heard one of the Freakonomics guys making a similar claim ("YOU'RE AN ECONOMIST FERCHRISSAKES!! FIGURING OUT PERCENTAGES IS PART OF YOUR FUCKING JOB DESCRIPTION!!"). I can find no evidence Megan McArdle has complained about tipping too (seems a natural, no?), but one of her summer replacement drones, Courtney Knapp, got into it in 2010; she talked about the "complicated etiquette of tipping" as if a coffee-shop were the Court at Versailles, and sniffed that "there is little evidence that tips are related to objective measurements of quality service." Again, I'm open to reason, but the fact that libertarians feel the need to make such self-evident bullshit arguments on behalf of this idea is at least one strike against it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

THERE'S NO CONSENT UNLESS JESUS SAYS "YES" AND HE NEVER DOES.

David French has always been -- or has been at least since first I encountered his terrible columns at National Review -- tightly wound, but his latest, about the rape accusations at elite prep St. Paul's, takes it a little further than usual. First, he explains that Saint Paul’s is "an 'elite' boarding school in New Hampshire (and Secretary of State John Kerry’s alma mater)"; the school's alumni also include John Jacob Astor, William Randolph Hearst, and J.P. Morgan, but hacks gotta cheapshot and there's no percentage for a Christo-conservative to associate long-dead press and robber barons with rape when the real issue is the mortal sin epidemic of our corrupt modern age:
For me, the legal and evidentiary analysis is difficult, but the cultural analysis? Not so much.
Fasten your chastity belts, boys and girls. For even if there was consent all around,
that doesn’t change the fact that something is deeply wrong on campus — in high schools and at college. The moral code that valorizes the orgasm and establishes consent as the only limitation on sensation and experience is the moral code that gives us the “senior salute,” the drunken hook-up, and the broken, regretful hearts that contribute to soaring rates of anxiety and depression...
You let people have sex whenever they want it with willing partners and what else can you expect besides pain? (BTW everyone should have guns, that's just common sense.)
The sexual revolution is built on a fundamental lie — that the rejection of traditional sexual virtue leads to individual liberty and personal fulfillment. In reality, “liberty” depends on the ultimate backstop of taking another human life to keep the party going...
Taking another human -- what, they have blood orgies? Oh, abortion, right -- in French's demo, they no longer bother to explain their signifiers: That we normals have not risen up and mass-Tillered Planned Parenthood proves we're all damned anyways.
...while “fulfillment” is elusive as the human heart defies the animalistic ideology of the secular Left.
I envision a human heart, shaped like Bobby Jindal perhaps, wrestling a priapic Left, and grow faint of heart and upturned of stomach, yet press on --
It turns out that the connection inherent in the sexual act is not so easily discarded — especially by women — and a sex act without a relationship not only is unfulfilling, but actually causes deep and painful emotional wounds.
I see he's already decided that the slut is lying, but (liberal) society's to blame.
And so a purely legalistic analysis of campus sexual culture will always be lacking. Even in the celebrated cases where reports of crimes prove exaggerated or false, something wrong generally still occurred.
Trimmed of some of its excess verbiage and pretensions, this sounds like something Gladys Kravitz would say before her husband told her to stop spying on the Stephenses and let him read his paper in peace. "I tell you something was going on over there!"
By equating the sacred with something as banal as a good buzz on a Saturday night, the sexual revolutionaries are plunging an entire culture into a doomed crusade to reject thousands of years of human wisdom and experience. Since time immemorial, men and women have sought to test sexual limits, and since time immemorial, the efforts to escape the constraints of sexual virtue have brought personal and even civilizational ruin.
That's what happened to the Romans, you know. Those lie-beral profs will tell you it was imperial overreach and Christianity, but in reality they fucked themselves to ruin, and succumbed to the Goths, who were more interested in whiteface and shitty music.
With the Obergefell decision, Bruce Jenner’s “transition,” and the continued fracturing of the family...
Yeah, we can stop there. So to sum up: Sex destroys everything, not only billions of preborns but also the delicate sensibilities of young people who don't know enough to channel their energy into clinic protests and exorcisms. You heathens have been warned!

I wonder if Buckley knew this was coming and that's what killed him.

Monday, August 24, 2015

THAT'S NOT FUNNY, THAT'S SATAN!

There are a couple of quasi-Trumpers at National Review, but by and large they are embarrassed by him, which they naturally express with belligerent stupidity. (Here for example is Kevin D. Williamson, in a column called "National Fronts," tying the rightist-racist parties of Europe to Trump -- and Bernie Sanders, because National Socialist get it; plus, Sanders is racist against Mexicans because he complained the Koch Brothers want "all kinds of people" to "work for $2 and $3" -- which is the kind of stretch that, had it been employed by a black person as evidence of racism, would have spurred a National Review special double issue.)

Why embarrassed? Well, there's an election coming up, and when this whole Trump thing blows over they'll want the voters to remember that National Review supported sensible conservatism, such as that championed by their author David French. For example:


Not even kidding. (Actually, before they changed it the teaser read "Satanists Reveal the Abortion Movement's Rotten Core." See, they do too have editors!) Let's read a bit:
One story is interesting, two stories even more so. But six stories are a trend, in this case a particularly appropriate one: Satanists are become a leading public voice for abortion rights. In their mockery of Christianity they reveal the dark heart of abortion-on-demand: the radical worship of self.
You laugh, but I predict that "radical worship of self" thing gets a big cheer for some 5 pm speaker at the GOP Convention next year.

And what are these six Satanic stories? One, Wendy Davis supporters mocked some holy rollers with "Hail Satan." Satan and mockery -- that's SatanAlinsky! Then the Satanists cheekily filed suit against some anti-abortion laws... wait a minute -- are these all jokes French is complaining about?
And many on the Left gleefully passed around a Salon article declaring that a Satanic Temple spokesperson took Megyn Kelly “to law school” in an appearance over the Temple’s desire to place a statue of Baphomet at the Oklahoma state capitol.
Never mind Salon, that gag got coverage everywhere from Boing Boing to Bloomberg. The only thing worse than a joke about Satan is a popular joke about Satan, apparently. And oh wait, here comes a good one:
With the release of the Planned Parenthood videos, abortion sympathizers are upping their Satanic game. At a Chicago Planned Parenthood protest, speakers apparently located inside the clinic broadcast “horror music” at pro-life advocates in an effort to drown them out.
Horror music leads to Satan just like show tunes make you gay. Eventually French is reduced to sputtering:
[Satanists] also declare that man is “just another animal.” It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate set of doctrines for the rutting life of the sexual revolution, where restraint is evil, physical experience is king, and people are simply sentient mammals trying to get the best out of life. A baby is thus no more sacred — and often less — than any other animal. Just ask Cecil the Lion.
Cecil the Lion! Maybe I've been getting them all wrong, and National Review stories are all basically drinking games.

In some ways this is the best part:
While the vast, vast majority of abortion-rights supporters don’t identify with Satanists and would recoil from comparison with the Church of Satan, prominent Satanist involvement in the abortion debate does have a clarifying effect.
This is being said by the same guy who a few months ago was telling us why his love of the Confederate flag doesn't mean he's racist.

Maybe they should embrace Trump. It's their best hope of going mainstream.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

THE BARREL HAS NO BOTTOM, PART 62,936.

Peter Wood at National Review:
Compare Mr. Trump with the episode in 1968 when William F. Buckley Jr. responded to a taunt by Gore Vidal on ABC in televised commentary on the Democratic Convention in Chicago. The famous exchange — Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responds by calling Vidal a “queer” — is receiving fresh attention in the documentary Best of Enemies. Buckley, in the words of Hendrik Hertzberg writing in The New Yorker, “immediately regretted” the slur, “and eventually wrote that he had returned to his dressing room in a state of despair.” But “Vidal had no such regrets about calling his opponent a crypto-Nazi. He knew he had triumphed.” 
Buckley, the man of traditional values, despairs because his flash of verbal anger is a failure of self-control. Vidal, a man of the new era, exults because his taunt succeeded in breaking his opponent’s reserve. Today, Trump plays the part of Vidal, sneering at those over whom he would triumph.
Yes, you read that right -- someone compared Donald Trump to Gore Vidal. If this degeneration of conventional wisdom continues, by next week they'll be comparing him to Adlai Stevenson.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

WHO'S ZOOMIN' WHO?

Franz von Papen (From Wikipedia):
Under the Weimar Constitution, the Chancellor was a fairly weak figure, serving as little more than a chairman. Moreover, Cabinet decisions were made by majority vote. With this in mind, Papen anticipated "boxing Hitler in," believing that his conservative friends' majority in the Cabinet and his closeness to Hindenburg would keep Hitler in check. Papen boasted to intimates that "Within two months we will have pushed Hitler so far in the corner that he'll squeak." To the warning that he was placing himself in Hitler's hands, Papen replied, "You are mistaken. We've hired him."
Ross Douthat, "How Trump Might Help Reform Conservatives":
First, I’m not sure it’s true that Trump’s campaign is substance free: Detail free, maybe, but he’s clearly associated himself with a kind of nationalistic politics that bears some resemblance to the Perot phenomenon, and some resemblance to European right-populism.. That’s a combination of ideas that conspicuously lacks support within the nation’s elite -- but it’s one that has a fair amount of popular and bipartisan appeal... 
Now of course as manifested by Trump this anti-Bloombergist spirit is crude, clownish, extreme, politically unrealistic, and so on down the list... 
But there’s a real opportunity here for reformers as well. Because so long as a protean, ideologically-flexible figure like Trump is setting the populist agenda in the party, you’re less likely to have stringent ideological tests applied to other candidates and their ideas; so long as the voter anxieties he’s tapping into are front and center in the debate, you’re less likely to see other candidates ignoring those anxieties while chasing support from donors or ideological enforcers instead.
As I've shown previously, the "reformcons" Douthat endorses are more con than reform -- a bunch of pencil-necked repackagers of Gilded Age philosophy, looking for jobs in the upcoming GOP Bureau of Bold New Boondoggles. I can appreciate, from a comedy perspective, blinkered and hubristic social policy wonks as well as much as the next fellow -- but to see them holding up a broken chair and cracking a licorice whip against a charismatic buffoon bully-boy, and imagining that they're the ones in control, strikes me as a formula for disaster.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WHAT, THOSE PEOPLE USE THE INTERNET TOO?

Michael C. Moynihan, formerly of Reason (the magazine, not the capacity for consciously making sense of things, obviously), goes blar har over the latest political correctness:


His buddies concur: "Good grief. How about 'might not contain the same views as yours. Go ahead and listen; stretch your personal envelope,'" "What, did someone in the program use a gender-specific pronoun or something?" etc.

You may recall that Buckley was a full-throated segregationist and white supremacist:
He didn’t stop there. In 1957, Buckley wrote National Review’s most infamous editorial, entitled “Why the South Must Prevail.” Is the white community in the South, he asked, “entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically?” His answer was crystal clear: “The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because for the time being, it is the advanced race.” Buckley cited unfounded statistics demonstrating the superiority of white over black, and concluded that, “it is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority.” He added definitively: “the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage.”
And this is from the WNYC broadcast descriptor:
During the question period [Buckley] endorses the concept of a "white backlash" if it means repudiating the views of such black leaders as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Bayard Rustin.
Maybe these are the kind of sentiments that WNYC wanted to warn visitors about. Do these guys really think it's a bad thing if the website thinks some black kid might like a simple heads-up before opening a file from an advocate of "white backlash"? Probably -- I expect they think the Pure Food and Drug Act was a big statist nuisance too, depriving consumers of the freedom to discover poison in their food by eating it.

I'm not crazy about trigger warnings and other sissy evasions of rough and tumble public discourse, but if someone wants to warn Jews that Hitler's about to make his big pitch, or warn blacks that William F. Buckley is about to speak, I count that as elementary good manners.

UPDATE. In comments, Maclean's cultural critic Jaime Weinman reminds us of the trigger-warnings-avant-la-lettre that have appeared before old cartoons that feature pickaninnies and whatnot for many years now:
I'm pretty reflexively anti-PC (or anti-anti-anti-PC?) but I also think the most important thing above all is to keep stuff available and uncut, whether it's a cartoon or a radio interview. And I don't think people realize that the choice is between sending this stuff out in public with a warning and not sending it out at all.
"No longer politically or socially appropriate" is awkward phrasing, I admit, but then Warner Brothers' first try at a content warning for cartoons had Whoopi Goldberg walking out to warn us. They replaced this with a disclaimer card. It's a work in progress.
I can understand how the degradation of black people might be something some viewers (including black people) would want to avoid; I can also understand why some viewers would want to see the cartoons as they were meant to be presented, not shot full of censor-holes. (I should mention that syndicates also cut non-racial things out of cartoons, like Porky and Daffy's iron lung gag.) The warning seems a reasonable accommodation, but I can also understand how that lets libertarians out.

STILL A FEW BUGS IN THE SYSTEM.

Ole Perfesser Glenn Reynolds says capitalism is great and you stupid intellectuals are just jealous of capitalism because you don't make as much money as capitalists. (It seems Donald Trump's influence on the movement is really spreading.) Reynolds writes:
At the same time, markets deliver the bad news whether you want to hear it or not, but delivering the bad news is not a sign of failure, it is a characteristic of systems that work. When you stub your toe, the neurons in between your foot and your head don’t try to figure out ways not to send the news to your brain. If they did, you’d trip a lot more often. Likewise, in a market, bad decisions show up pretty rapidly: Build a car that nobody wants, and you’re stuck with a bunch of expensive unsold cars; invest in new technologies that don’t work, and you lose a lot of money and have nothing to show for it. These painful consequences mean that people are pretty careful in their investments, at least so long as they’re investing their own money.
If that's true, how'd the Perfesser and all his pals miss the 2008 recession? The neurons in his economic foot weren't working too goddamn good then.

Well, I expect there's an excuse having to do with "crony capitalism" somewhere. Lagniappe: The Perfesser bolsters his case by making fun of foreign socialist dictators out of Bananas:
It is simple really: When the "Great Leader" builds a new stadium, everyone sees the construction. Nobody sees the more worthwhile projects that didn’t get done instead because the capital was diverted, through taxation, from less visible but possibly more worthwhile ventures — a thousand tailor shops, bakeries or physician offices.
Or did he just get confused and use Scott Walker as an example?

UPDATE. In comments, ADHDJ: "Remember when Reynolds was predicting in early 2009 Obama was going to destroy the stock market? The DJIA has more than doubled in the seven years since he made that pronouncement. I'm sure Reynolds' opinion of Obama has changed accordingly -- the market demands it!"