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In the foppish, sweaty, desperately condescending tone of an Oxford Don dressing down an undergraduate in lecture who resisted his leering advances at the pub the night previous, this Financial Times book review tries to defend US political economic policy as “pragmatism”.
If centrist tropes were oil this review would break OPEC’s pricing power.
The tropes are used to oppose a characterization of the US political economy as “neoliberal”, something neither the reviewer or book author being reviewed seem to understand.
Neoliberalism is a contentious term. As a deer hunter in the Michael Cimino style I care about aesthetics, and by far the most aesthetically pleasing definition of neoliberalism is the anthropological one: a set of rhetoric, practices and institutions which trains the self to use metaphors of competition and the market to frame experience.
But whatever. That might not be the right way to analyze neoliberalism or political economy. But definitely one of the wrong ways is the centrist claptrap the Financial Times recites.
Size of the state matters, and “government spending compared to GDP” is an accurate way of measuring it
Size *always* matters (ask an Irish person who lives abroad if you don’t believe me) but spending / GDP is a red herring. The consequences of policy decisions by the state have nothing to do with *amount of spending* and everything to do with *amount of control*. A SNAP program that allows Hormel products and not kale exerts much more control than mailing strings-free checks.
The amount of economic regulation means the state is “interventionist” as opposed to “letting the market take its own course”
Oh god this is the dumbest shit ever.
Exhibit A: The market can’t exist without state regulation on the tiniest, granular level. The Illusion of Free Markets is my favorite explication of this (mainly because of aesthetics again, though Bernard Harcourt can’t really be characterized as a “one deer, one shot” thinker). There is no line past which “regulation” “distorts” “the market”. It’s regulation now, regulation tomorrow, regulation forever.
Exhibit B: The flurry of economic regulatory activity in the last few decades hasn’t even been oriented around containing markets, it’s been about shifting resources and risk.
Exhibit C: the FT review scores an own goal by stating outright “the [economic regulatory] changes are more accurately described as a re-regulation – a change in the forms of regulation and intervention – rather than de-regulation.”
Finally, the big one:
“Even on the level of rhetoric, the ideas of neoliberalism have little purchase. Outside of a few university seminar rooms and think-tanks it is, for better or worse, pragmatism that reigns.”
The greatest trick the Devil tries to continuously pull is that one is acting “without ideology” in a “pragmatic” manner.
The past few decades of US political economic activity – in which public decisions and resources have steadily been shifted to places where no-one in the middle-, working- and precariate classes can benefit from them; risk has increasingly been shifted from the elite to the poor and from private to public; and trillions of dollars in cheap and nigh risk-free money have been transferred directly from the government to the financial sector – is a strange kind of pragmatism.
One which looks exactly as if it’s using the state to de-democratize decisions and put resources in the hands of elite control while shifting risk into everyone and everything that is not a part of that elite.
I prefer my misogyny out in the open. I like it niiiiiice and inflammatory. People can react to it, and it can be dealt with.
We don’t live in that world. We live in a world where misogyny slips into cracks, into subtext, into what is *not* said.
We also live in a world where misogyny is deeply intertwined with corruptive and reactionary view of politics.
Perfect example: Benedict Carey’s Memorial Day article in the NY Times.
Carey’s article is nominally about the increased rates of mental illness among women in the military than men.
One of the biggest adjustments the United States military attempted during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was cultural: the integration of women into an intensely male world.
I know I know a US military that “attempts” “adjustments” is a horribly reactionary frame; move past it, move past it, there’s worse.
The evidence that Carey, the Times’ reporter on brain and memory science, provides for the increased mental illness rate among women has more holes than Hitler at the end of Inglorious Basterds. But leave that to one side (or check the bottom of the post *), move past it, move past it, there’s worse.
The reached for (and “reached” is definitely the verb, if not “shitted-out”) explanation is that women can’t access brotherly love.
For men, the bonds of unconditional love among fellow combatants — that lifeblood of male military culture — are sustaining. But in dozens of interviews with women who served, they often said such deep emotional sustenance eluded them.
[. . .]
“It creates a kind of bond between members, a love that transcends anything you’ve ever known,” David H. Marlowe, the founder of the Army’s behavioral health unit, who died last year, once said. “You come to the absolute belief that the noblest and most important thing you can do is die for the others.”
Many women in the military did not have that kind of love — at least when they were deployed. “It’s like, I got all the downside of serving in the Army and none of the upside, the camaraderie,“
Hmm. Are the ways that women fail to access this “lifeblood of military culture” different from the ways men fail to?
Benedict Carey doesn’t know, because Benedict Carey lumps all men together and all women together. Men do not have difficulty accessing this camaraderie; women do. This “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” framing, the individualization of the problem, is endemic to centrist political reporting, and glosses over the institutional dynamics that contribute to problems. This is an individual problem for people to deal with, not a social problem for communities and institutions.
What’s puzzling, and acts as a key to unlocking the piece’s deeper misogyny, is that Carey quotes a woman that offers a way for the Army to deal with this predicament.
“It’s such a tricky thing to navigate; you have to learn to approach guys like a sister, not as a potential romantic partner,” said Anne, a woman who served two tours in Iraq and wanted her full name omitted because she is currently on active duty. “When you do that, they’ll do anything for you. But so many females coming into the Army, they’re so young, they don’t understand how to do that.”
Provide training and create a culture where men and women generally interact with each other platonically, not as people eyeing each other at a club in 1 in the morning.
But Carey doesn’t frame the quote this way; it occurs during a dump of quoting women describing their experiences, and its implications go unremarked.
We’re on to something, here.
The “Men are Martian, Women Venetian” frame that emphasizes individuals and ignores how institutions create the context in which they operate partly explains why he does this. There’s a deeper reason though. It ain’t pretty.
For all his focus on individual experience, Carey misses A GIANT FUCKING ENORMOUS matzoh ball: how the differences among women contribute to the difference in their experience.
Carey doesn’t even rhetorically ask whether women of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds experience this lack of social integration differently. This is baffling, because, as with the quote above outlining a perfect institutional response the Army could take, Carey provides quotes highlighting the importance of ethnicity and class in individual experiences:
[Social Scientists] have found that the mental costs borne by those in the minority are similar. Members of such groups tend to report as many insults and bad days as members of the dominant culture. But compared with the majority, they feel far less secure.
She also learned how to handle the rich girl comments: “So what, I’m here just like you.”
How ethnicity and socioeconomic status affects the ways women handle stress in the military isn’t just something Carey overlooked; it’s explicitly in Carey’s narration of the issue. But it’s not in his analysis at all. Every woman is white, and every woman is upper class.
If that’s even the term for it. Carey chooses to frame his story around a young Lieutenant who developed mental problems: feelings of inadequacy, numbness, anxiety, panic attacks. She went to Philips Exeter Academy, one of the most elite prep schools in the world; graduated from Wellesley; and has been traveling the world for a couple years as a way of combating her illness. Her father is an international venture capitalist for software firms.
She’s a sympathetic figure, and I wish her nothing but the best in her struggles.
Benedict Carey treats her ethnicity and wealth as invisible. As unworthy of discussion. If someone’s ethnicity or socioeconomic status differs from hers, Carey doesn’t find that relevant enough while exploring women reacting to stress in the military to even ask whether it matters.
All the things Carey does re-enforce each other, making a tepee of social shittiness to trap women. If males are all able to access brotherly communion that women have difficulty sharing, and the military itself doesn’t shape the problem, the stress and mental anguish women experience are due to something innate to being a female – ethnicity and class don’t affect things, after all – and can only be changed by women acting differently on an individual level.
The message is: a woman’s isolation and alienation in a social space is a problem specific to something innate about women, not a social problem; and women need to deal with it individually, not collectively; and certainly not men, and not institutions.
Notice how free-floating the message is once its received. It applies to a woman working the line at McDonald’s as well as someone in upper-middle-management who rarely sees another person wearing a skirt.
“Your feelings of isolation and alienation are because of you. You’re the only one who can deal with them. Hope you have enough money to travel the world.”
The ultimate con here is one I’ve already lost by discussing this stupid, shitty, misogynist article by Benedict Carey: we shouldn’t be getting our patterns of thought from the media. It shouldn’t matter that Benedict Carey wrote a piece that ignores how the military institutionally creates a social environment, that erases distinctions among ethnicity and class, and treats all men and all women as two homogenous groups. The words should have the same affect being printed in the NY Times as being printed on a handout you get while walking through the airport from someone waving a tambourine.
But in order for that to happen, your parents would have had to raise you differently. It’s probably too late now.
I suggest meditation. Or Jack Daniels. I use both quite liberally, and concurrently.
* He cites a study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine to talk about the increased risks women face over men when they return to civilian life. The *conclusion of the study* is “the post-deployment adjustment of our nation’s growing population of female Veterans seems comparable to that of our nation’s male Veterans.” Umm.
He cites a finding in that study that the expected rate of depression among enlisted women is likely between 1.1 and 1.6 times that of men. But the expected rate of women in general to experience depression is twice that of men in general. Umm.
The study relies on self-reporting of sexual harassment, depression, and PTSD. I am not a betting man, as it is against my church, but if I were allowed to bet I would bet that male soldiers are less likely to self-report those things. Umm
The other piece of data Benedict Carey provides, although without attribution, is that “Army data show that the suicide rate for female soldiers tripled during deployment, to 14 per 100,000 from 4 per 100,000 back home — unlike the rate for men, which rose more modestly.” So. During a deployment when women were being used in combat roles in an unprecedented way, the suicide rate for women rose more than it did for men. Umm.
And that’s the hard data in Benedict Carey’s piece.
The nicest touch is that in his discussion of how minority populations in general face more stress, he says the data isn’t there for women in the military:
The search for answers continues.
Researchers are now asking how much “all those little things” — the differences inherent in being on the margins of a culture — affect a person’s mood, especially under the stress of combat.
Carey explicitly says he’s pulling stuff up outta his ass. That the story he’s trying to sell about women’s mental illness in the military – that it’s due to maladjustment with a male culture – is a story, unbacked by data.
So, to be clear, the shitty parts of the story – that ignore the military’s role, lump all men as homogenous and ignore ethnic and socioeconomic differences among women, and creates such a shitty message – are not driven by data. They’re driven by Benedict Carey.
One of the reasons Mad Max: Fury Road is so good (umm spoilers if you’ve been chained to a bed in a Misery-type scenario and haven’t been able to see it) is that it dramatizes ideological constraints.
No-one can see past their prejudices.
Not the chalky henchmen, not the escaping women, not the old crones in the desert, not Bad Teeth Joe who crashes his empire for no reason.
One of the defining characteristics of centrism is ignoring and denying the structural factors that constrain individual action.
Unemployed? Move to where the jobs are! Or get more education and skillz!
Face sexual discrimination at work? Lean-in and do what the boys do!
Oprah is a consummate centrist entertainer, emphasis on the first syllable. Featuring self-help gurus, spiritualists, vision boards, and other self-improvement claptrap by the truckload, she rigorously advances individual responses to social problems.
Nicole Aschoff, in a compelling excerpt printed in the Guardian from her recent book New Prophets of Capital, documents a number of these ridiculous piece of advice, including becoming an “out-of-the-box thinker” to lessen back-pain at work and reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles to lessen stress when you can’t pay your rent.
Obviously, an obsessive focus on individual-level solutions to broad structural factors prevents people from organizing to change those factors. Macroeconomic policies that depress wages and boost unemployment while siphoning resources to the rich are not in peril from people learning to become out-of-the-box thinkers, or reading Murakami.
But Aschoff goes deeper: the kind of relentless individualistic remedy Oprah promotes is centered on a specific idea of what a person is.
It’s simple. Anyone can become anything. There’s no distinction between the quality and productivity of different people’s social and cultural capital. We’re all building our skills. We’re all networking [. . .]
The way Oprah tells us to get through it all and realize our dreams is always to adapt ourselves to the changing world, not to change the world we live in. We demand little or nothing from the system, from the collective apparatus of powerful people and institutions. We only make demands of ourselves.
A necessary part of Oprah’s vision being a specific kind of person. Attributes of this person, besides being willing to buy homeopathic remedies because a Turk is wiling to wear scrubs on TV:
- She is not too poor to acquire new skills
- She has a social circle she can leverage
- She is not too physically isolated, due to geography or illness or personality
But more generally, and more importantly, she is the type of person that doesn’t look for collaborative, communal organizational activity to solve broad social problems. She has to be psychologically comfortable with not changing the situation she finds herself in through collective action. She has to be willing to cope without rocking the boat.
The centrist tropes Oprah relies on are a narrative that creates this type of person.
Success in life means that you earned it; failure means you did something wrong.
Finding fulfillment is finding the right self to fit your environment, not in finding fulfillment in the struggle to change your environment.
Saul Bellow once wrote: “That’s the struggle of humanity, to recruit others to your version of what’s real.” The tragedy of this centrist story is that it tries to turn this quote on its head: the struggle is recruiting versions of your self to fit what others define as real.
That’s partly why I’m making an effort to write this shitty blog again. Too many of my friends, family and co-workers are falling prey to this centrist narrative. I want to get it to stop.
And if it ever does? Oh what a day. WHAT A LOVELY DAY.
Part 1: The Set-Up
– One consequence of inhaling the fetid gases arising out of the DC centrist swamp is the uncontrollable urge to express support for the “Grand Bargain”, a wide-ranging budget deal that would fiddle with tax rates and cut social spending programs in order to lower the long-term deficit. Here’s the mad cow pen at Kaplan Test Prep lowing at it’s necessity. A failure to come to a “Grand Bargain” was in part what led to the stalled negotiations to raise the debt ceiling in 2011.
– A result of the debt ceiling fever-dream was that spending cuts to programs awkward to cut (ie, the military and social spending whose rescission is most likely to cause blood to flow in the street) are to be enacted at the start of 2013. Ben Bernanke (hereafter: The Lorax) warned last February that the combination of those cuts and the expiration of the Frank Booth* Tax Cuts would create a “fiscal cliff”. His point in invoking the metaphor was to emphasize that we shouldn’t be enacting these austerity policies, because they would kill the economy. He said this forcefully. When the Treasury Secretary says something like “I think you also have to protect the recovery in the near term,” it’s measured policy speak for “you fucking twats, don’t cause another recession by cutting spending.”
* ‘cuz he fucked everything that moves, get it?
Part 2: The Sting
Everybody say it with me: THAT DON’T MAKE NO FUCKING SENSE.
The economy will be destroyed if we don’t avoid spending cuts and tax increases, but we need to enact spending cuts and tax increases right away in order to save the economy.
You can’t possibly believe that statement, and worse, you can’t manipulate it somehow to get it to make sense without running into another moat of centrist bullshit. It doesn’t make sense to consider both dismantling the “fiscal cliff” and reaching a “Grand Bargain” together, but ok, first we avoid catastrophe and then we phase in long-term deficit reduction over time, right? WRONG says Erskine Bowles in his best McLaughlin voice, doing so would “show markets we can’t put our house in order”, both have to be done nownownow. Why the prescription for saving the economy is the same as what we have to stop in order to avoid tanking it, or why interest rates in 2020 will give a shit whether a deal was hammered out in January or October of 2012, are left as exercises to the reader.
Well ok but at least then there will be deficit reduction, right, that’s the whole point of this exercise? WRONG says Peter Orszag, in his virile high-pitched voice, “the most promising approach may be to compromise on Social Security — even though it is not a significant driver of our long-term deficits.” The “fiscal cliff” needs to be used as an opportunity for a “Grand Bargain” of deficit reduction, even if there’s no deficit reduction.
Part 3: The Highest Form of Patriotism is to Punch Veterans in the Mouth
“Austerity will harm the economy, so we need to avoid it, but in the process of avoiding it we need to do it in order save the economy. And even if it won’t save the economy, we have to do it.” How much clearer could it possibly be that the centrist braying for dealing with the “fiscal cliff” and in the process instituting a “Grand Bargain” does not come from sober or reasoned economic analysis, and that looking for a through-line of logic from centrists in their incessant neighing for austerity is like trying to follow a single trail of slime in a slug orgy.
The purpose is not deficit reduction, or economic stability. It’s what it always is: the transfer of wealth and security from the public to the private, from the masses to the few, from the base to the top.
How these broken-down jackasses are able to whine so incessantly for their plutocratic nightmare while holding up as paragons of virtue and civic responsibility the very people that will be destroyed by their policies is beyond me. Two things are certain, this Veterans Day: David Gregory will blither staggeringly through his list of talking points to obscure the above analysis as much as possible, and he will praise veterans as the highest form of humanity yet attained, and I will vomit. Three things.
I won’t be able to top Jon Schwarz: “I guess when you spend all day at work blowing up weddings, it’s hard to know when to stop.” Obviously. But I can try.
Petraeus must have been incredibly conflicted. The CIA is “the tip of the spear”, but he’s the architect of the Surge.
Conservatives are outraged, and trying to create a scandal by framing this as an excuse to avoid testifying about the Libyan consulate attack. The name of the scandal? Bang-ghazi.
Drone surveillance or it didn’t happen.
O christ what is this, fucking Andrea Mitchell. No, Petraeus didn’t do that, too, he’s not an objectivist so he doesn’t hate himself enough to stoop that low. But, in the more general sense: fucking Andrea Mitchell.
Call it power-worship, call it the emotional response of an authoritarian when her hierarchy wobbles a bit, call it the pain of one Villager seeing another get cut down (which just is not supposed to happen), call it knowing Petraeus socially on a personal level, but that kind of simpering response is exactly the problem with the centrist media. Petraeus is part of the club so when he fails, even if its entirely his own doing, it’s a “tragedy”. Christ on a crutch. It’s not just that only bad things involving the people Mitchell represents with stuffed animals at her imaginary tea parties with the pink pot and cups generate an emotional response. It’s the militaristic deep-throating. All the people he’s killed devising and enacting military strategies that increase the destruction of entire societies to make wars more politically palatable, well, a “life of valor” is measured by such deaths, and they certainly do not cause tears to spring to the eyes, and words to catch in the throat, of Andrea Mitchell. That’s why she’s there. That and because she lets Alan Greenspan do the same things to her with a clarinet that he did to Ayn Rand. With the same clarinet, too. And you can’t wash those things, not really.
And with that, more jokes:
Proposed names of the Petraeus biography rejected in favor of All In: The Education of General David Petraeus
Humping It: The Rise of General David Petraeus, In and Out of the Military
The Hard Thrust: How General David Petraeus Bucks Convention
A Commitment to Honor: General David Petraeus and Restoring Honesty to Military Strategy
David Does Dawlatābād
Petraeus is extremely competitive and his career aspirations know no bounds. How fucking attracted must he have been to Broadwell to put all that at risk? There must have been some *very* dark psycho-sexual stuff going on between them, like Broadwell putting on brown body paint and Petraeus fucking her using a robotic dildo he controls from three thousand miles away.
Petraeus’ pet names for his and Broadwell’s genitalia are “the military-industrial complex” and “America”, respectively.
It’s hard to know how many times Broadwell came, because Petraeus counted every time she moaned as an orgasm. Amnesty International is attempting to compile a complete list of Petraeus’ ejactulations, although there are obstacles to collecting data.
Those aren’t as funny though as these actual lines Broadwell wrote in the biography:
I took full advantage of [Petraeus’] open-door policy
Petraeus progressively increased the pace until the talk turned to heavy breathing
But it just starts to get weird with this NYTimes Ethicist column from July in which Chuck Klosterman gives advice to someone whose letter begins “My wife is having an affair with a government executive. His role is to manage a project whose progress is seen worldwide as a demonstration of American leadership. (This might seem hyperbolic, but it is not an exaggeration.)” Probably a coincidence, but still . . . I agree with this Slate guy (damn you, Petraeus, how many lives must you ruin) that in any event Klosterman says some insightful stuff about the letter-writer probably having ulterior motives and wants some specific people to read about the scenario and deduce what’s going on. He better hope it’s just a coincidence, otherwise he’ll be getting a one-way flight to Diego Garcia where someone will enact a clear, hold and build strategy on his rectum.
And my stars, this Daily Show interview of Broadwell from January. She talks about her husband, and . . . it is too obscene, knowing what we know now, I cannot embed or discuss it, there are limits.
In all seriousness the announcement of the affair and the resignation (on a Friday, no less) are intended to encourage jokes like this and a tittering focus on naughty bits that obscure the enormous institutional faults that took place, and the extremely messy issues that crop up when the federal domestic criminal investigation branch is snooping on the foreign intelligence service. Try to focus on the important stuff. And keep Holly Petraeus in mind, David’s wife, not only for the personal cost she’s paying for someone else’s mistake but because she’s has been doing yeoman’s work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It might turn out that she’s the vector for the largest damage to American political institutions that this incident causes, and there’s no strategy David should be able to implement that can win back our hearts and minds after that kind of collateral damage.
All my circuits are blown on this one I can’t even swear at it. It is proof that God has abandoned the up-keep of his creation.
The AP “fact checks” Clinton’s convention speech. I’ll ruin the surprise: no actual facts are checked.
Before the Fisking it’s important to just count the number of claims about politics that are presented as obvious truths without any repeat any evidence or argument to back them up. 1. “The inflexibility of both parties is to blame for much of the gridlock.” 2. “The problem with compromising in Washington is that there are few true moderates left in either party.” 3. is a little more abstract, but the piece faults Obama for “ensur[ing] the tough compromises would not get made” on Social Security and the debt. Why are “tough compromises” necessary on these things at this time? I dunno. Neither does the AP.
As always, the centrist scam is to hide a very particular political agenda behind “objective” analysis. If the parties aren’t working to enact the corporate consensus, they are inflexible partisans. Amazingly, this consensus can be found on every corporate media entity. What an astounding coincidence.
Enough sarcasm. ThinkProgress did its best on this turd but only got to about 15% of what’s wrong with it. Not good enough. Prepare to Fisk.
Clinton Claim: Obama be compromisin’ Republicans be obstructin’.
AP Fact Check: 1. The first “fact” is that Rahm Emanuel exists. No mention of anything he did. Just that he exists.
2. The “grand bargain” didn’t happen because Boehner couldn’t get Republicans to vote for it and Obama was criticized by some Democrats. CRITICIZED. BY SOME DEMOCRATS. Clearly a party is holding up legislation if some of its members are criticizing it.
3. Simpson-Bowles wasn’t enacted in legislation, even though the Republicans torpedoed the actual commission, and even though Obama adopted most of it for his own proposal. The AP acknowledges these things.
Good job, AP. Your fact check of the claim that Democrats compromise and Republicans are obstructing the machinery of government only ignores all the instances in which Republicans have been doing so to an historic extent. Recite it with me: record Senate filibusters debt ceiling ransoming record number of executive agency confirmations denied.
Now I’m just a simple country lawyer, but it seems to me that evaluating a claim that a party has been obstructionist needs to grapple with the objective ways in which that party has been historically obstructionist.
Clinton Claim: Health care spending has increased at a lower rate since Obamacare has been enacted.
AP Fact Check: 1. It’s mainly the economy
2. The two main cost-saving measures have yet to kick in
3. Anyway who gives a shit people still pay a lot for health care amirite
The only “fact check” here that has any logical connection at all to Clinton’s statement is the point about the economy. Interesting that the article can’t even keep it’s claims straight across paragraphs; first it’s due to “uncertainty”, then it’s about the economy being “lackluster”, which suggest two completely different mechanisms in how health care spending is affected. Either way though both should have been even more prevalent in 2009, when the rate of spending increased, than in 2010 and 2011, when it decreased.
Goddammit is there one fucking thing in here that isn’t undone with elementary logic.
Clinton Claim: Romney’s campaign said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Remember that, America.
AP Fact Check: We remember when Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky so it’s hypocritical for him to call out a campaign basically stating it will lie as much as it possible can.
Guess not. As logically insane it is for a “fact check” operation to be running political smears, THIS ISN’T EVEN A FUCKING CLAIM TO FACT CHECK IT’S JUST A FUCKING TRANSCRIPT OF-
Y’know let’s just move on to the last one. Because there is no larger order to which we are beholden and we all die alone, let’s just do it for kicks. Just to see if there’s one goddamn thing of value in this fucking thing.
Clinton Claim: Voter’s anger at the economy is understandable, but a political reaction to them wouldn’t be prudent. Voters were angry about the economy in ’94 and ’95, right before a huge economic expansion.
AP Fact Check: Clinton’s comments ignore the role his policies had in later economic troubles. The tech bubble eventually popped, and Glass-Steagall repeal set the stage for the ’08 collapse.
Those things did happen, AP, which have what to do with anything? Clinton makes a point about the political timetable moving too quickly to adequately judge economic progress and you bring up the bad parts of Clinton’s economic record? Is your point that voters should look five to ten years into the future to look at the economic effects of who gets elected, and then compare that to what they think would have happened under the other guy? But wait: if they’re looking into the future, then how can they change what’s going to happen? Unless it’s only a possible future . . .
That’s right. The only way to read the AP fact check article in a way that doesn’t make it out to be completely mendacious is to imagine the intended audience is a nation of Kwisatz Haderachs. Centrism at its finest.
Matt Bai is living proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. His parents figured out how to bone and unleashed dangerous centrist spawn on the world nine months later.
In truth, though, Mr. Clinton and Ms. Warren speak to different audiences and reflect inescapably divergent perspectives on how to confront the epic challenges of globalization and inequality.
Mr. Clinton is the president who made the sustained case to Democrats that they had to be pro-growth and pro-Wall Street, not just to get elected, but also to build a more modern economy. He was the one, as spokesman for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, who told Democrats again and again that they couldn’t succeed as a party that loved jobs but disdained the businesses that create them. Mr. Clinton transformed welfare, balanced the budget and declared an end to the liberal era of government, which is why a lot of conservative-leaning independent voters would re-elect him if they could.
As a Harvard law professor during the Bush years, Ms. Warren, who is now a candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, came to represent a rebuke of such Clintonian expedience. Her indictment against the excesses of Wall Street and the abdication of centrist Democrats became popular among a new generation of old-style economic populists (most notably John Edwards and then Mr. Obama), who often cited Ms. Warren’s arguments in making the case that the party had to reverse course from the Clinton years and rein in a business community that was prospering at the expense of the middle class.
HOLY BALLS ARE THESE NOT CONTRADICTORY. Bill Clinton is not for a fucking financial collapse. Elizabeth Warren is not for incontinent irresponsible spending. Clinton is not in favor of letting credit card companies fuck over their customers. Warren is not for cutting off business from financing and capital.
THESE APPROACHES ARE, IN FACT, COMPLEMENTARY. Without strong oversight and strict rules, the financial system just doesn’t fucking work, does it. And if the ability of the financial system to provide capital to businesses is shunted, the economy doesn’t fucking work, does it. But I’m sure Clinton wants the former outcome and Warren wants the latter.
THESE APPROACHES ARE COMPLEMENTARY BECAUSE THEY ARE RESPONDING TO DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENTS, LIKE ADULTS. Would Warren have opposed balancing the budget and paying down debt in the late nineties? Is Clinton opposed to expanding food stamps and unemployment insurance right now? Is there anything contradictory in any of this?
THERE’S A GHOST OF A POINT HERE, BUT BAI FUCKS IT UP BY TRYING TO BE DAVID BROOKS AND INFANTILIZING IT. And it’s not one he spends a full clause on. “Mr. Clinton is the president who made the sustained case to Democrats that they had to be pro-growth and pro-Wall Street, not just to get elected,” end quote. Hmm that’s an interesting point maybe the Democrats have to take finance cash in order to win what are the causes of this situation what are the consequences Mr. Bai? Mr. Bai? Why are you putting that brightly colored plastic block in your mouth? Why won’t you tell me about the powerful structural factors that determine the political phenomenon you’re talking about? Why are you talking this bullshit about “competing worldviews” that you know is so abstract it isn’t even a gross oversimplification?
BAI’S INFANTILIZATION RESTS ON A CENTRIST POLITICAL AGENDA THAT IS NEVER EXPLORED IN THE PIECE ITSELF.
A. Making up a fight among Clinton and Warren makes it seem like “don’t fix the financial sector” is a viable political position within the Democratic Party, which puffs it up as a mainstream opinion instead of its actual existence as a whispy ghost on the fringes of acceptability.
B. By making up a huge fissure in the Democratic Party, it allows an implicit comparison to the Republicans, whose central story since Palin has been its war between moderates and looney tunes. Both Sides Do It! Partisan politics is tumultuous and eventful and exciting! The fact that Bai can’t find actual disagreements to make his point, the fact that he has to make shit up to make the point that politics is working out large disagreements with huge stakes, means that he’s a . . . big poopy head.
C. The mask slips at the very end and Bai starts to reveal his political preferences. In the guise of objective analysis, of course. “Is Mr. Obama, at bottom, the Clintonian candidate who tried to hammer out a “grand bargain” on the budget with Republicans, or is he the more traditional Democrat who skewers Wall Street bankers as “fat cats” and pretends he can fix inequality with gimmicks like “the Buffett rule?” ” The use of pejorative terms for one side of that “objective” question indicates where Bai stands, of course, but it goes even deeper. By ridiculing the perfectly-sensible-on-both-policy-and-moral-grounds Buffett rule for not single-handedly fixing income inequality, he denigrates the very idea of both the sensible rule and treating income inequality as a complex problem which will need a toolkit to take apart instead of a hammer. In other words, he’s denigrating the idea of being an adult about solving important problems.
How Bai has avoided SIDS this long I have no idea.
Of all the cheap little tropes these centrists use to obscure their moral and intellectual vapidity the absolute fucking worst (well maybe a tie with the self-absorbed circle-jerk that is the concern about “tone” and “civility”) is humor. Not quite humor, I think we can all agree; maybe parody. Hell it’s not even that. It’s just mean-spirited empty sarcasm. Tina Fey Mean Girls style. Always.
And lo how the examples stack up when reality presents them with a situation that no amount of quibbling and hair-splitting can keep them from claiming that “both sides do it” and to plead for “civility”.
Like now. For instance, dafuq is Brooks doing in this column? It’s a series of exaggerations of Romney’s biography, hitting the main points of Romney’s narrative: his childhood, teenage boarding school years, the dog on the car, the Olympics, the governorship. Bain is given short shrift, comparatively. The details are so outlandish (Mitt converted to being Amish but left after he found out about the ban on hair cream, nyuk nyuk nyuk) that such venerable writers as Susan and Doug mistook it at first as satire about Romney, or didn’t understand the fuck it was trying to do. Letters to the editor also share that interpretation.
You need eyes attuned to the absolute black pitch of centrist thought to be able to parse what’s going on here.
Because Brooks thinks he’s making fun of the rest of the media and Democrats.
He’s saying, “Oh my goodness gosh, the insane things people are saying about Romney. Look at how insane they are. This insane!” But take two seconds to think about it. What is the actual content of the critique he is satirizing? “Romney doesn’t care about people who have little or no wealth. He doesn’t know how they live, he doesn’t care, and he doesn’t care if they get hurt. His immense family wealth bought him the ability to lead a different life than most anyone else, and to not care about what happens to most anyone else.”
Is there any doubt this is the case? At all? How many different senses do you need to lose before you start doubting those propositions? His preferred policies are an economic holocaust for people without stocks, capital or car garages. In every single instance they favor increasing the wealth of the wealthy instead of the economic, health, environmental, or any other concerns of any other group.
Brooks could be using his column to be shedding light on under-reported issues, or to rally support to address specific issues of injustice, or to brag about his shitty kids. Anything would be better than this too-confused-to-even-call-it “satire” whose targets are complaints that a nominee for president wants to dick over everyone without money.
So you see the basic format: there is a proposition or a practice that is as clearly against the sensibilities of the centrist pundit as it is true, which puts the centrist pundit in a quandary. What to do, what to do. Incoherent sarcasm is the answer. Especially when it’s being applied in defense of other centrist pundits.
Glenn Kessler, as discussed, is a gaping scumbag asshole who needs to be fired for incompetence at discussing politics in a national forum. Clive Crook disagrees with that statement, but cannot provide any reasons for disagreement, so he lapses into ohp you guessed it:
Of course I could criticize Kessler without calling him the filthy liar that he is. You know, exercise a little “restraint”. On the one hand, on the other hand, all that crap. But leading scholars have taught us that in politics things aren’t complicated, and when somebody builds a career on a lie, we need to say so . . .
Some of you may find that distinction hard to grasp. It’s Two Spocks difficult. Paul Krugman helped me see that people are divided into three groups: the ones who know I’m right (I call these “excellent”), fools and knaves. Possibly, you’re a fool, so let me spell it out for you. When a fact is wrong, it’s not some number of Pinocchios, it’s just wrong . . .
Angry? You bet I’m angry. I’m crying tears of rage right now. We don’t tolerate people who torture small children and we shouldn’t tolerate atrocities like this. I can’t think of a penalty too severe . . . And I know calling him a brazen liar and wishing him to be set upon by ravening dogs isn’t going to open any channels of communication between us. Good. That’s just how I want it. You can be “civil” and have your nice debates, and that’s all fine and dandy if you want to be a filthy traitor in the war of ideas. But when you engage with liars, you validate their lies–lies, lies, lies–and you’re no better than they are.
I guess there are “reasons” in there, that certain ages of child might accept. I don’t really see how claiming “politics is difficult” is a defense of Kessler’s refusal to condemn what he admits are lies. I don’t see the value in a type of nuance that says “this consistent series of political stances based on an incoherent budget plan may enrich every millionaire at the expense of every non-millionaire, but really, every politician fudges things a little.” And I don’t see why getting angry at people who refuse to acknowledge that the consistent actions and stated intent of a segment of elites are to enrich themselves as much as possible by making life as desperate for as many other people as possible is a vice.
The “channels of communication” thing is the biggest crock of shit. “Yeah, these guys want to take away your pension and medical support and basically force everyone to live paycheck to paycheck shackled to debt their entire lives, and are lying about it, but it’s not that important.”
“Hey, fuck you too, buddy, it is important.”
“HOW DARE YOU CLOSE THE CHANNELS OF COMMUNICATION. I don’t see how I can discuss, IN THIS HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT, how fucking you and your kids and your parents over isn’t important.”
So fuck you, Clive Crook, with a rusty spoon, right in the eye. You’re defending someone who’s saying, “I acknowledge these politicians are lying about fucking people over for decades. It isn’t a big deal.” And your only defense is childish sarcasm and meaningless buzzwords. Who’s fucking blocking the lines of communication, here, dickwad?
Oh plus Clive Crook defends Mickey “I am literally the worst thinker Slate has ever published” Kaus. ‘Nuff said.
Scumbag asshole Glenn Kessler writes a column called “The Fact Checker” for the Washington Establishment Stooge Subsidized by Shady Education Materials Company. Why is he a scumbag asshole?
The occasion for the column, of course, is the recently concluded Lies-a-thon of a convention the Republicans held between marathon lap dances in Tampa. Every single substantive claim or reference to policy made by Paul Ryan was completely empirically false, fer instance. So of course someone who writes a column called “The Fact Checker” in the second most important newspaper in the country says that it doesn’t matter.
The Washington Post’s political coverage cannot induce embarrassment in its proprietors at this point, but let’s look at what would embarrass another paper should this piece have appeared anywhere else:
– It’s always like this! Because Zell Miller made a few claims about Kerry’s agenda in a speech at the ’04 Republican convention that extrapolated too much on old votes or statements. And that crazy Sarah Palin and her on-again off-again relationship with that bridge to nowhere. And Obama referenced McCain voting 90% of the time with Republicans while remaining silent about his 97% rate voting with Democrats.
Let’s start with that Obama thing first, because it illustrates just how goddamn mendacious this whole exercise is. Ask me if the next fucking sentence in that 2008 speech after the 90% reference makes Kessler look like a gaping asshole. Because I have the answer.
But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.
A C-average 8th-grader would be expected to understand the mistake Kessler’s making. How can you argue with such a person? They’re either too stupid to understand what they’re doing, too dishonest to care, or too lazy to give a fuck about it. Who the fuck thinks Kessler has any credibility or integrity after doing something like that?
Zell Miller was making claims about Kerry’s approach to the world. His Weltanschauung. This last convention lied non-stop about facts. Picking two among dozens of others, Romney said Obama raised taxes on the middle-class, when Obama lowered taxes on the middle class. Ryan contradicted the stated reasons of credit agencies for downgrading US credit. In a CBS interview afterward, he contradicted the words of the report as they were read to him. You should watch the clip of that interview if you want to see a sort of nightmare vision of a political figure’s refusal to acknowledge reality.
Doghouse Riley, The Best Pundit In America, makes a similar point about the Palin stuff.
Palin’s comments underlined a personal dishonesty so thorough that no one would trust her to make the proper change. This was a subject the Press, naturally, stayed the hell away from; her wardrobe grifting got some play, but also the required faux-balance pushback. When she told Katie Couric she read “all” newspapers it was taken as evidence that she couldn’t name any (possibly true, extemporaneously, anyway), but not so much as evidence that she’d lie to anyone about breakfast, if she felt she needed to (“C’mon. She’s a politician!”).
Ryan, on the other hand, simply misrepresents inconvenient facts in order to push his apodictic Randian certainties on the rest of us, and those certainties collapse the moment facts are applied. That’s an exponentially greater lie than Palin’s fictional bio (or Marco Rubio’s), and several orders of magnitude more consequential.
Bieberdamnit I wish I could write like that.
But really the only point that needs to be made here is
SO WHAT IF THIS IS THE WAY THINGS ARE USUALLY DONE YOU FUCKING DOLT
THIRTY MILLION PEOPLE WATCH THIS FUCKING SHIT AND DON’T REALIZE THEY’RE BEING LIED TO
IT’S HARMFUL, IT SHOULDN’T BE ACCEPTABLE, AND PEOPLE IN YOUR POSITION ARE AMONG THE FEW WHO CAN CHANGE IT. STOP WALLOWING IN THE CULTURE OF POLITICAL OPERATIVES AND DEFENDING THE PRACTICES OF PEOPLE YOU SOCIALIZE WITH. DO WHAT FUCKING TEENAGERS KNOW IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
– Tone is more important! Bob Dole’s ’96 speech was much more acerbic. And Romney didn’t include in his speech all the lies that his campaign uses in their commercials. And anyway these things are just giant commercials, no need really for nitty-gritty details to intrude in them.
I summon Thers and Whiskey Fire’s many years of archives about tone and civility in politics. The big guns. Concern about tone is a cudgel centrists resort to when there’s no other argument to make. Because what effect does tone have? When Dole said that Clinton was taking money away from families so they couldn’t afford to pay the bills, what were the negative consequences? Mm-hmm. Meanwhile the negative effects of the kind of lying about facts the Republicans just spent three days doing prevents democracy from functioning in a competent manner. Why the fuck should tone matter instead of lying about facts? Kessler doesn’t say, for some reason. And why the fuck should it matter what tone anyone takes when they lie their fucking heads off? Kessler doesn’t say, for some reason.
In the meantime all this gibberish about not including the maximal amount of lying and lying being ok in this format because I said so that’s why is so fucking stupid and obsequious I can’t even force myself to type a response to it.
Really this is a prime example of maybe the biggest centrist media crime: confusing their role with being a political player. If the centrist media person’s job is part of the professional political establishment, it’s their responsibility to defend political institutional practices adopted for their own interests against scrutiny. If the centrist media person’s job is to report the facts about the professional political establishment in a way that serves the public good, it’s their responsibility to scrutinize political institutional practices and critique them when they’re deficient. Kessler’s irrational toadying makes it clear where he falls.
These are golden times for media centrists. Sinecures as far as the eye can see in multiple mediums, and the only thing you’re accountable to is how well you vomit the conventional wisdom. Easy peesy lemon squeezy.
Seeing this stuff for what it is and calling it out with inappropriate cussing and sexual imagery, on the other hand, is difficult difficult lemon difficult. You have to show how language choice and emphasis and tone and all these weird amorphous concepts conspire to advance a specific political effect or vision. Tough stuff.
But lo, like a Lady in the Lake clad in shimmering samite, fate has thrown a gift from her inscrutable depths: Republicans which are just balls-out crazy and no longer give a fuck about hiding their sociopathy. And when this unstoppable force meets the moist quivering sponge of centrist journalism, the latter can’t help but get swept away, exposing itself in the process.
Case in point, Time’s Michael Crowley, whose schtick is so obvious in response to Paul Ryan lying on every substantive point in his convention speech I can just quote individual words and phrases. From the first few paragraphs:
most famous cutting prosecutor
master cultural beacon for the middle class
[WHO GREW UP IN A 6,000 SQ. FT. MANSION – sorry]
grand ideas attention-grabbing address
drew rhetorical blood vivid fillip [JEEEEEEE-SUHS]
These meaningless fluff words from the first few paragraphs do not belong in a story recounting the most mendacious American political speech given in at least the past five years, and they were written from a place of cowardice.
The fact that a few more paragraphs down the actual lies were recounted with “fudged facts” language, in a manner that makes it seem like typical political practice, becomes much easier to discern and almost beside the point.
The centrist pundit cannot stop, of course, it’s a compulsion, a dark passenger borne of insecurity and ego, so last night after Romney’s speech Crowley went on Greta’s House of Pain. After a speech which featured snide jokes with literal lip-curls and birther shout-outs and a fucking call-and-response section where a stadium full of assdicks chanted “no” in unison, Crowley had this to say about Romney accepting the nomination:
It was more sorrow than anger . . . not an angry message, we’ve talked so much in that last few years about the anger out there, in the tea party and the primaries, yknow, all of us were at primary events were voters were just furious and they wanted to just stand up and yell and give speeches.
But the tone tonight was sorrow, not anger, “let’s do something that we don’t feel great about doing but the time has come, we gave the guy a chance . . . but it’s over”
Fuck you, Michael Crowley. Crichton might have given you a small dick in one of his books for petty reasons, but you deserve a far worse fictional fate:
Talk about a fucking beat that would sap anyone’s strength . . .
Had you caught Paul Ryan’s speech to the Republican convention last night (and if you missed it figuring you were all full up on egocentric monsters luxuriating in their own righteousness, more sympathetic I could not be), had you braved the speech you could not fail to notice Paul Ryan flatout lying on every substantive point he brought up.
Not errors of omission, either, like how a half hour earlier Cloud of mushroom with a side of Rice had just kinda not mentioned Iraq or how Osama Bin Laden has not been livin’ for the past year. No. Ryan told straight-up fuckin’ lies. A sample:
– The “Obama took $715 billion from Medicare” chestnut that Michelle Bachmann got called crazy for peddling in 2010, and which cuts in any case Ryan put into his own Granny-starving plan.
– A GM plant in Ryan’s hometown was closed, AFTER Obama said that “if government helps [this situation] out, this factory will stay open for another hundred years.” GOODNESS. But uh the plant closed in 2008 so uh yeah.
– Trashing Obama for failing to follow the Simpson-Bowles commission, a commission which did not actually issue a final recommendation because it was blown up by a certain zombie-eyed House member from Wisconsin.
– Trashing Obama for getting US debt downgraded by a few agencies. Oh if only the agencies issued reports specifying in detail why they downgraded that debt why they might have specified that their decision was because of the Republicans’ willingness to treat the debt ceiling like the Lindbergh Baby which would eliminate any excuse for a barely sentient person to avoid calling this stinky bullshitty lie what it is.
Prudence demands drawing the curtain on the freak show at this point, but rest assured there are plenty more where those came from. Those links are all compendiums of lies, by the way, and they don’t overlap very much.
(Update – Can’t believe I forgot this: aside from the fucking lies, Ryan just flat-out contradicts himself within a few sentences.
Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you . . .
When I was waiting tables, washing dishes, or mowing lawns for money, I never thought of myself as stuck in some station in life. I was on my own path, my own journey, an American journey where I could think for myself, decide for myself, define happiness for myself. That’s what we do in this country. That’s the American Dream. That’s freedom, and I’ll take it any day over the supervision and sanctimony of the central planners.
In other words, “it’s Obama’s fault that you’re such a fucking moocher.”)
At this point the only sane, rational, honest response to Ryan taking out his cheddar cheese dick and slapping every American in the face with it is the one of Timothy Bryce, the only interesting person I know:
This, of course, is a character from the cinema movie film American Psycho, expressing similar sentiments toward Mr. Ryan that he expressed toward a speech in which Ronald Reagan was lying in said movie film.
Does the reaction of centrist media types meet the lofty standards of a character from American Psycho? Read the rest of this entry »
The best development in the field of punditry in the past, oh, three or fours years at least is the application by Charles P. Pierce of his considerable powers to political analysis.
He is much less susceptible to the institutional careerism which is the Original Sin responsible for centrist bullshit, and he could give a fuck about civility or the social mores which act as regulating mechanisms if a centrist should slip here or there. A bright spot in a bleak landscape.
But what I’ve come to realize is that, from the first moment the first protester stepped onto the lawn of the capitol in Madison 16 months ago until the polls close tonight, the Great Wisconsin Recall has been an extended argument against narcotic centrism and anesthetic civility […] What we have here is a fight, out in the open, without nuance or euphemism, between two ideas of what self-government should look like, who it should serve, and how, and how wide the parameters of participation will be. That is serious business. It ought to be contested fiercely and to the last and without cosmetic conciliation. Scott Walker made a firm stand against public-employee unions, and did so in a way that ran contrary to a proud tradition of progressive politics in a state that takes those politics very, very seriously
As opposed to, say, this fucker: Read the rest of this entry »
via lots of folks but the precipitating factor was Atrios.
The deal here is that an ABC news correspondent gave three minutes to Honeywell CEO and member of Obama’s debt commission David Cote: asked him a few questions, got a few answers, put it on the air. Of course Cote said within thirty seconds of each other “The reason there’s so little hiring is because of uncertainty about the debt” and “The reason Honeywell is not hiring is because of slow orders”, ie lack of demand. So the reporter, Devin Dwyer, or asshead Devin Dwyer to use his professional title, could have asked a quick follow-up to explain that contradiction. Or he could have asked Cote about whether there is a lot of debt reduction to be had by performing an audit on the 15% of its revenues Honeywell gets from government coffers in the form of aerospace contracts, one of the ugliest wings of the military industrial complex in which no-bid offers and unnecessary procurement have the run of the place. Of course the next question he asked was “What advice would you give to President Obama?” And the little cherry on the sundae was Cote’s answer, “I’m not going to tell you that,” and Dwyer’s response, “Fair enough.”
Cote also let himself indulge in a bit of centrist rhetoric to just make this latest boning of the public discourse extra special. “Republicans and Democrats need to come together and, I think, quit saying that the hole is on the other guy’s side of the boat. We’re all in the same boat.” Yeah, but some of us are in the filet mignon dining area and some of us are in the rape chambers. Why they put rape chambers on the boat, I don’t know, but there are a lot of them, filled to capacity.
And look this is another instance of getting all sweary and invoking the metaphor of testicle consumption over insignificant media production which is just designed to fill up space, a three minute clip of an interview that maybe tens of thousands of people actually saw, and about twenty-seven actually paid attention to.
But that’s the thing again, isn’t it. If the centrist equation holds for even this; if reporters value access and not-giving-a-fuck-ness to this extent; if public figures are not called to task even when they flat out contradict themselves or have the grossest conflicts of interest in even a quick little story; then of course the stuff that matters will be so thoroughly integrated within the centrist framework that it will be more centrist spin than fact, its viewpoint twisted and evil.
So we’re up to speed here, yes?
Cory Booker declared criticism of the industry where his campaign donors come from off-limits, released a youtube video where he doubled down on that declaration, and hit a few softballs that were walked up to a tee for him by asshole Rachel Maddow in an interview where he refused to address what he said re: declaring his campaign donors off-limits.
But the donors were mighty titans of the financial industry, so no serious media person gave a shit, of course. It’s all “process” and “tone” and “campaign positioning” and look a baby panda who convulsively sneezes in a funny way. None involved will ever be punished for polluting the public discourse, and we all die alone.
BUT. Centrists are unique among members of the class Insecta in that they run toward wherever the media is shining light at any particular time.
SO. It is time for that cherished ritual, a children’s treasury of lolCentrists which makes fun of all the asinine and terrible things centrists say whitewashing objectively awful comments by a centrist colleague.
There are a lot of them so they are off the main page. The last one is out of left field and is the funniest. The meat, as the samurai said to the courtesan, is below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »