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I have painstakingly decoded the very complex and subtle way the New York Times uses its readers’ prejudices to signal that Bernie Sanders’ campaign is not worth taking seriously:
The premise of this piece is that Bernie Sanders is a wicked-scary political force and mentions rallies of hundreds of people. “Hundreds of lame people,” the editor said under his breath as he was selecting a photo that more people will see than read the first paragraph of the piece.
“But old people vote!” *You* might think that, but *your psyche* is thinking “Bernie Sanders supporters are old white women, and not the fun Betty White kind.” During the first Democratic debate you’ll be wondering why Sanders’ railing against the TPP makes you think of Grandma’s Boy.
And no-one liked Grandma’s Boy, not even Nick Swardson.
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.
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.
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.
Tony Blair is testifying to the British government about the Rupert Murdoch phone hacking scandal. He had some very nice things to say about the man to whose daughter he serves as Godfather: “He is not actually a sort of identikit rightwing person … you know, he has bits of him that are very anti-establishment; meritocratic, I would say.” Chahhhhhhming. I suppose they hack private cell-phones in a proactive way that’s outside the box in an outrageous new paradigm and totally in your face. Well, maybe not the last one. More like totally sneaky in a matter befitting a major felony.
Well but so it wasn’t a total loss. A protestor somehow made it up to the testifying area and after a quick “Excuse me” started calling Blair a war criminal and accused him of being paid off by JP Morgan to let them fuck with the Iraqi bank.
Other protestors threw eggs at his Rolls when he left. I’m a big believer in this stuff. Part of the reason these assdicks get away with the heinous shit they do is that there’s not enough push-back against the construction of them as serious, thoughtful, considerate, decent people. The more folks that go “huh, I wonder what that was about”, and the more that see breaches of decorum like chicken embryos sliding down their 100,000 pounds sterling cars, the harder it is to portray war criminals as thoughtful statesmen.
Of course there are tactics which have evolved to fight the above. One of which is centrist media portrayals of the incidents which treat the protestors as a common and inevitable feature of the landscape that is nothing anyone has to think about.
The Guardian, for some fucked-up reason, portrayed the protestor as an example of the “placard-wielding critics” that follow Blair around “like little black rainclouds”, though noting that Blair had the kind of tan you can get “when you can source expensive sun year-round.” Blair “barely flinched”, “waited with his chin in his hand,” “another day, another call for extradition to the Hague.” Ha ha people who care about war crimes are funny and come with the territory of being a major politician who must commit war crimes as a matter of course nothing to see here.
The Guardian also, of course, said Blair attempted to “set the record straight”, quoting him as saying, “Um, can I just say, um, actually, on the record, what he said … is completely and totally untrue …” Interesting that they left out caveats Blair said, which is that “what he said about Iraq and JP Morgan is completely and totally untrue. I’ve never had a discussion with them about that.”
Hmm. I don’t think I could use that as a fulcrum for a perjury charge. But if I were detective Lenny Briscoe I would give my partner a wry look.
via Crooks and Liars.
Pete Kasperowicz writes for The Hill, a DC paper concerned with objectively defining issues and tracking how political power, lobbying efforts, and the institutional and social milieu in which political operatives exist shape those issues. Of course their working definition of the term “centrist” is “someone with a large intellect and kind soul”.
PK wrote on legislation which the House recently passed that prohibits the Census Bureau from continuing to conduct an annual study called the American Community Survey. It provides more geographically-precise, more timely, and more fine-grained data than the Census, and is used by all levels of government to make thousands of policy decisions every week which direct $400 billion worth of funds each year.
PK acknowledges this when he lets us know that “supporters of the program argue the survey provides information.” Thanks, Petey.
To balance out that extremely provocative and telling piece of information, Peter-the-Awesome provides seventeen other paragraphs attacking the survey, in the process quoting three Republicans extensively. Who of course are the only people quoted. Three of those paragraphs are a House member mockingly quoting some of the questions asked, including “do you have a flush toilet” and “because of mental, physical or emotional conditions, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions?” This is followed by a quote from another House member asking what use is legislation protecting citizens from government spying on their internet use, since they already know everything. Five years of determining the basic economic and health needs of the populace to determine where budgeted money should be spent has already resulted in an Orwellian nightmare, which no-one noticed until Peter Peter Bullshit Eater’s intrepid stenography of Republican talking points pulled back the curtain on Big Data.
Centrism means shamelessly defending objectively insane policy proposals.