Wednesday, July 25

If You Look Away The Monster Can't Eat You

David Weigel, "Leave Chick-fil-A Aloooooone". July 24

IT'D be one thing if Weigel tried to downplay all the insanity on his end of the political spectrum (it'd also be a full-time job). That, of course, would brand him as something other than the objective observer and independent thinker we all know him to be.

Instead Weigel has an interesting, oh, let's call it tendency to treat religious-based crackpottery as though the market had already permanently discounted it, freeing the urbane thirty-something to promote his own thirty-something, urbane social reasonableness as the real soul of the real Republican party. Whereas the Teabaggers were a real, sui-generis grassroots political movement which just happened to look and sound precisely like the Republican party since the mid-1970s, a brand-spanking-new organization free of the unpleasant whiff of back-dated culture war and the fetor of racism, and single-mindedly focused on lowering taxes for the successful, urbane, thirty-something.

Maybe it's age gives one a different perspective. Or maybe it's that I live in Indiana, where I've been laughing off snake-handlers and kerosene-drinkers for forty years, and they're poised to win the Governor's office this fall.

Wish 'em away, Dave:

The Chick-fil-A controversy has been confounding from the outset. Who eats at that chain and doesn't know about its founder Truett Cathy's conservatism?

You mean aside from the 85% of our fellow citizens who're utterly oblivious to politics?

Has nobody walked there on a Sunday and seen the message from Cathy, explaining that the restaurant is closed because the company honors the Sabbath?

Funny thing about that: I first became aware of the joint maybe twenty years ago or more, when one turned up at the local mall. I refused to eat there because of the atrocious spelling (swear to God!), then, later, because they did enough business that the aroma of plastic food was unmistakable. I had, however, spent about a decade or so giving them grudging respect for the Sunday closing thing. Hey, at least they put their money where their faith was, unlike the vast majority of faith-spewers. Then I learned the closing was designed "to give our employees the opportunity to go to church." Which is a little less noble and a little more "that oughta keep 'em subservient for six days worth of split shifts a week". Do you suppose Jews are guaranteed Saturdays off? Or Muslims Wednesdays? Hey, just kiddin'.

Did nobody notice how Cathy got an honorary degree from Liberty University the same day that Mitt Romney did?

Boy, I guess I'm not the keen-eyed observer of the American political scene I thought I was.

I'm gonna guess here that people eat at that joint for the same reason they eat at most joints: the car was traveling past it. It helps, of course, that few if any Americans know what a chicken is supposed to taste like when it isn't raised in an industrial ant farm. I've been astonished by the number of liberal commenters who've praised their crap in the interim. "Their chicken sandwich is really good." Take it from someone who'll never have one: No, it isn't. It's the processed body parts of a bird pumped with chemicals to avoid dying of any of the hundreds of diseases God in His mercy would visit on the simplest of creatures rather than see them "live" like that. What's "really good", apparently, is the fat they fry that crap in, if you go for that sort of thing.

Which is beside the point; like any modern progressive I'm Kantian about food and a free-thinker about sex. The point is that closing on Sunday, admirable or not, does not signal that the whole operation is devoted to close-minded bigotry. Yes, getting a statue from Liberty U does, but I missed that.

So I concur in part with Terry Mattingly's head-scratch about the start of the controversy. He points out that K. Allan Blume's original, soft-focus interview with Dan Cathy (Chick-fil-A operatures on a primogeniture management style) never actually got into gay marriage. This is the key section:


Mattingly points out that the word "gay" never appears. "While the story contains tons of material defending traditional Christian teachings on sexuality," he writes, "the controversial entrepreneur never talks about gay rights or gay marriage. Why? Because he wasn’t asked about those issues in the interview. This raises an interesting journalistic question: Is a defense of one doctrine automatically the same thing as an on-the-record attack on the opposite doctrine?"

The interesting thing here to me is that this fabulist hair-splitting is remarkably similar to the attitude which allows us to call that stuff "chicken" in the first place.

To be fair, Weigel objects:

"Traditional family," in this context, was a way for the Baptist Recorder to avoid the word gay in an article about a company that uses some of its profits on campaigns against gay marriage. Maybe the meme-ing was lazy, but the story was fair -- an example of the media using context to figure out code words and report out a pretty slippery statement.

But what made the "meme-ing"--from the same degradation of language which gives us "Chick-fil-A"--lazy? What th' hell else can "support for 'traditional' marriage" possibly mean? Do we really need to parse every sentence of Dan Cathy's statements to make sure we don't unfairly lump him with the rabid Bronze Age superstitionists he funds? Or just to make sure we don't make the Republican party sound too crackpotty an' all?

Monday, July 23

Look, Lady, It's Not The Cheesecake's Fault You're Diabetic

Katherine Jean Lopez and Mary Eberstadt, "Pill Buzz Kill". July 20

READER, we are about to slog through an particularly unappetizing example of Intellectual Movement Conservatism. Which, like its model, the Holy Roman Empire, starts off 0-3 before it ever takes a swing. I'm not particularly a connoisseur of these sorts of carryings-on. I hope you'll forgive my lack of patience.

But just tell me: how could someone be either one of these people? Even for money? How in the world do you grow to peri-menopausalism in the modern age still grousing about The Moral Effects of the Pill? Okay, granted, your favorite brand of Bronze Age superstition says it's immoral. But your favorite brand of Bronze Age superstition says a lot of things. Many are flat-out embarrassing. Either learn to keep it to yourself, or become an Evangelical. Public displays of insanity are positively encouraged over there.

Okay, granted, I have zero empathy for this, and not much more sympathy. I happen to enjoy a good fuck. I was raised a Christian, Protestant division, and we didn't go in for filigreed faith and infallible leaders. The thing I took from Christianity was an individual responsibility towards the Truth. I know, the nuns don't teach you that , but Protestantism's been around since the 16th century. At least acknowledge that. It's not like you have to share Heaven with 'em or anything.

The controversy over the Department of Health and Human Services contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing-pill mandate has been dismissed as one having to do with access to contraception, part of a John Boehner– or Catholic Church–orchestrated “war on women.” In truth, it has to do with religious liberty and the federal government’s forcing religious institutions and individuals to get with its sexual-ideological program, despite conscience objections.

Friends, this spark is the product of rubbing two right-wing sinecures together.

It has also been presented as a “preventative services” women’s-health measure – meaning that the government has officially made fertility a disease, and pregnancy something to be prevented.

Every time you people come up with a snappy retort you go into your Touchdown Dance.

How did we get to this point? Is there a healthier and saner way to look at contraception? There is, and Mary Eberstadt outlines it in her new book, Adam and Eve after the Pill. The HHS-mandate debate may not be primarily about contraception, but it gives us a much-needed opportunity to have a better public conversation about the issue.

Maybe you could ask the public about that.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: “Modern contraception” may be “the central fact” of “our time.” That revolutionary?

"Yes," "indeed". That?

MARY EBERSTADT: Yes, the sexual revolution really is all that. Name one other single social force that has changed so much about life for so many people everywhere on the planet. Besides National Review Online, of course.

Thanks, I'm here all week, if the Hoover Institute keeps writing checks. Don't forget to try the extra-cruelty veal, and refuse to tip your waitress, the parasitical slattern.

Who even talks like this? Fanboys unaware they're revealing nothing so much as their own limited perspectives, that's who. Neither of these women ever drew a breath in Pre-Pill Moral America. Neither has the slightest inkling, let alone concern, of what life was like for a half-billion Indians in 1948, or a half-billion landless Chinese peasants before Mao, or 20 million African-Americans in their own country around the time the National Review was founded to set them free.

Forty to fifty million people worldwide are estimated to have died in World War II, which was the product of a single social force. But this is dwarfed by the idea that somewhere right this minute some slut is giving a blow job without feeling cheap about it. And this woman is about to lecture us on History.

LOPEZ: You note that there are things that could be said in the 1940s and 1950s by sociologists that we now cannot say — unless we seek “to be written off as religious zealots or as the blogosphere’s laughingstock du jour” — on account of “our changed moral code.” Have you been reading my inbox again?

For such a talkative bunch, "conservatives" sure are prevented from speaking a lot. We'll be name-checking Charles "Muffled" Murray in a bit, by the way.

EBERSTADT: I don’t have to, Kathryn — I can already guess what’s in it! Nothing brings out the gibbering hysteria quite like countercultural talk about sex. So let’s put some of it into historical and intellectual perspective.

Reader, close your eyes and imagine five instances of "gibbering hysteria" in our politics. Now open your eyes. How many of them involved "countercultural sex talk"?

Pitirim Sorokin, founder of Harvard’s department of sociology and a towering figure in his time, wrote a book almost 60 years ago, intended for a general audience, called The American Sex Revolution.

Sociology: the Queen of the Natural Sciences.

He argued back then that the revolution would have negative effects across society via an increase in broken homes and general dissolution. He went so far as to argue that the sexual revolution would be the most consequential modern revolution for all humanity, excepting only the totalitarian political experiments.

So? Is "combing post-dated social theory to find someone who agreed with you" some sort of discipline to you people?

Just imagine any Harvard sociologist publishing a book like that today — or any sociologist, period. It would be academic suicide.

So's a sociology degree.

The few hardy souls who do venture into Sorokin’s territory constantly risk becoming pariahs. Witness the unhinged ferocity of some of the attacks on recent work by social scientist Mark Regnerus.

Forgive me, but doesn't Dr. Regnerus have a job? And wasn't the "unhinged ferocity" unleashed by his publishing something?

LOPEZ: Seriously, why are we so obsessed with sex?

No, really. Katherine would like to know. In detail.

EBERSTADT: The revolution is like a big party that a lot of people really looked forward to, but that’s now gotten way out of control. Nobody wants to be the first to leave, and nobody wants to tattle on anyone else — but everybody knows things have run seriously amok. At this point in the evening, we’re like a bunch of drunks reassuring ourselves that everything’s going to be fine tomorrow, even as most people know deep down that it isn’t.

Yes, kids, in eighty years time you're going to wake up and regret all that sex stuff.

Look, I don't know about you, but over the last sixty years this is about all I've heard, especially from the Right. It was your only concern during the first ten years of the AIDS pandemic. I've met a lot of people in that time who enjoyed fucking, but few of them bothered quoting sociology texts in their defense, fewer still were Proselytizing Polyamorists or Philosophical Child Molesters, and none that I recall cited cheap and effective contraception as a blinding light which had shown them the way.

You could read a fascinating sociological study called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” cited in the book, to prove the point. Or you could just peruse the last few years of tony secular magazines like the Atlantic for writing on relations between the sexes. What are these women saying? Some are giving up on marriage. Some are giving up on men. Some are creating purposely fatherless homes because they can’t or won’t have a man in their life. And all of them wonder aloud about what’s killing romance and sex.

Women never expressed dissatisfaction in the good old days. Because we didn't let 'em speak.

Why are all these educated, enlightened, relatively well-off women so unhappy, in their very own words? Well, one explanation could be that contrary to what they’ve been told to believe all their lives, the revolution and its cheerleading squad, modern feminism, haven’t delivered the human goods

Isn't "in their own words" supposed to mean something like "in their own words"?

LOPEZ: The denial “bears comparison to the deep denial among Western intellectuals that was characteristic of the last great debate that ran for decades . . . the Cold War”? Isn’t that a bit much?

EBERSTADT: Nope. For decades now, sociologists and other experts have built up a library’s worth of evidence about the toll of this human experiment. Yet a great many sophisticated people deny that this record exists and excoriate anyone who so much as points his thumb at it. This is uncannily reminiscent of what happened during the Cold War, when an impressive number of sophisticated people across the West reacted to Communism . . . by attacking anti-Communists rather than Communists.

Of course in retrospect, everyone can see that Communism was exactly what the anti-Communists said it was: an experiment with enormous costs. Nobody disputes that anymore, not even all those anti-anti-Communists who spent their days defending or rationalizing the thing. The point is that as it turned out, a lot of sophisticated people were wrong all along about a pretty important issue that turned out in retrospect to be a no-brainer.

Thank God, too. Imagine if the Chinese Communists owned America.

That’s where the comparison to denial about the legacy of the sexual revolution comes in. Right now, those who might be called the “anti-anti-liberationists” are running the show. In retrospect, though, they’ll be the losers in this debate, just like the anti-anti-Communists were yesterday, and for the same reason: because the facts aren’t on their side.

Nope. All they've got is deliriously wanton carnality.

I think that evolution is happening already, in fact. Just look at the recent article in the New York Times, all about how being married or unmarried is a decisive factor not only in income inequality — married people are financially better off — but also, the author dares to suggest, in children’s overall well-being.

That kind of thinking in the paper of record represents a real turnaround. It means that the evidence assembled by Charles Murray and W. Bradford Wilcox and other tenacious social scientists about the “marriage gap” has finally started to sink in.

Okay, panel, I'm gonna flip all the cards over, which I should have done earlier, say, with K-Lo's smarmy "question" there, or the point at which I started to read the article. Yes, one day we're all gonna wake up--and if my own intuition, plus the work of brave social commentators like Charles Murray, despite it being censored, tells me anything, it's that that day is coming soon--and realize that the last seventy years have been a bad Liberal charade--all the bad parts, that is--and then we'll get back to realizing that Negro children have smaller heads because God wants them to be menials, and Hispanics are built low to the ground because that's where the crops are, and sex will go back to being a chore. And we'll recognize the place for the first time.

This spares you from this:

A typical 1950s housewife, for instance, would have been laissez-faire about food, but likely a Kantian about sex — i.e., someone who thought moral law applied to the latter area, but not the former. Today, say for that woman’s 20-year-old granddaughter and plenty of other people, those same moral poles have been perfectly reversed. That is, many people today are laissez-faire about sex, thinking it is strictly a private matter between consenting adults — but they are simultaneously and increasingly morally censorious about food issues. Just think of the passion behind discussions of the rights and wrongs of buying organic, or being a vegan, or advocating slow food or locavorism, or not buying tuna from certain whalers — etc., etc., etc.

Can'tcha feel the groundswell for getting the taint out of sex, and putting in back in our food, where Grandma knew it belonged?

Saturday, July 21

Summer Olio

• Our story so far: Mitch "Never Trust A Corporate Lackey Named Mitch" Roob, gets a job heading the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (I-PONZI) for Mitch "Never Ever Trust Mitch Daniels" Daniels, and, promptly a) gives the 10-year, $1 billion privatization gig to the subsidiary of IBM where he used to do whatever these people like to describe as "work"; b) watches as the thing promptly hurtles down a cliff, and needed services for the state's most needy--including children, Mandrake--start running six months behind, assuming they can even be found; and c) gets a better, higher-profile government sinecure as a result.

The Billion Dollar Boondoggle is so bad the state's "Press" actually begins to notice, which prompts Daniels to pull the plug (disproving the idea current among at least one ravening blogger that the problems were a feature) after only three years of the state's money swirling down the crapper. IBM and the state sued each other; Daniels refused to testify on the grounds that, as Governor, he couldn't be put under oath, and, as Mitch Daniels, he couldn't be expected to tell the truth anyway. * And won.

So last Wednesday, Marion County Superior Court judge David Dreyer ruled that the state owes IBM $12 million, on top of the $40 million he'd already given it. He also blasted both sides for screwing taxpayers.

Mitch Daniels was properly contrite. Right?

Governor Daniels's office released this statement about a Marion County judge's ruling in the state's welfare modernization lawsuit against IBM:

"Here's what matters: Indiana, which eight years ago had the nation's worst welfare system, now has its most timely, most accurate, most cost effective and fraud free system ever. That was always the goal, and changing vendors was essential to achieving it. We'll seek and expect a reversal, and either way, it's all been well worth it to solve the problem we set out to fix."

Mitch Daniels: Financial Wizard, so long as he gets to set the rules, do the judging, and is the only participant.

• Speaking of Mitt Romney, if posting has seemed a little light around here, it may be due in part to my utter befuddlement at how the Republican party managed, somehow, to nominate its true, distilled essence despite the fact that Stupidity still outpolls Cupidity 3:1.

Look at the goddam list of people who've held the GOP national standard since Eisenhower. Richard Nixon is responsible for half the aggregate IQ.

Honestly, if Mitt Romney isn't the textbook example of how wealthy families, which in their accustomed fiefdoms sent their idiot children into the clergy, now send them into finance, it's only because George W. Bush got there first.

• David Brooks had written the same column like six times in a row before he decided to do one of his Damning With Faint Damns Which Prove I'm A Moderate numbers on the President Friday. Somewhere among those was this nugget:

One thing is for sure. As Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has said again and again, it’s not enough to say that capitalism will make you money. You can’t fight what is essentially a moral critique with economics.

Right. You have to buy it, and figure out how to write it off as a loss.

Jesus. Money is your only fucking argument, and your point is that you deserve most of it. Isn't the correct formulation "You can't fight what is essentially a moral critique when you're a amoral shitbag at the core" ?

• Indianapolis, under proto-Teabagger Mayor Lt. Col. Gomer F. Ballard, has decided to take a run at hosting the 2018 Super Bowl, since the total bullshit about how much money "we" made on this years' went down so easy.

My favorite bit, so far: the local teleprompter readers dutifully sounding out the "fact" that the $2 million campaign won't actually cost us anything, because that's how much money we saved on snow removal this year.

• Chuckles Krauthammer disproves the Prez:

Absurd. We don’t credit the Swiss postal service with the Special Theory of Relativity because it transmitted Einstein’s manuscript to the Annalen der Physik. Everyone drives the roads, goes to school, uses the mails. So did Steve Jobs. Yet only he created the Mac and the iPad.

Can we make a simple request? If you're of a certain age, and you didn't own an Apple product until the middle of the Naughts, shut th' fuck up about Steve Jobs. In fact, shut up about him, regardless. Your American success story is Bill Fucking Gates. Or Sam Fucking Walton. If you don't eat at McDonald's four times a week you have no right to tout our exceptionalism. If you do, save your breath, and say your prayers.


* Slight exaggeration of Daniels' petition. Very slight.

Monday, July 16

Now With 25% More Opiate!

GEE, I dunno, Ross. Can the Times be saved?
IN 1998, John Shelby Spong, then the reliably controversial Episcopal bishop of Newark, published a book entitled “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” Spong was a uniquely radical figure — during his career, he dismissed almost every element of traditional Christian faith as so much superstition —

So did the 19th century German Protestant theologians, Ross. And they were right. Demonstrably right. 

You can't be a learned member of 21st century society and insist that half the Old Testament was written by Moses, nor that there's any evidence at all of Jesus Christ, historical carpenter, that the Gospels are contemporary eyewitness accounts, that every species on earth is fixed for eternity and is descended from two parents, that the world is 6000 years old, for that matter, nor that the whole structure one refers to as "Christianity" is anything other than a collection of tales and beliefs which have been shaped to suit their times and political expedience for a couple hundred centuries now. Sorry. You can't. You can get a job at the New York Times, but you can't justify a bit of it in reasonable or rational terms.
but most recent leaders of the Episcopal Church have shared his premise. Thus their church has spent the last several decades changing and then changing some more, from a sedate pillar of the WASP establishment into one of the most self-consciously progressive Christian bodies in the United States.

As a result, today the Episcopal Church looks roughly how Roman Catholicism would look if Pope Benedict XVI suddenly adopted every reform ever urged on the Vatican by liberal pundits and theologians.

Apart from the ones which are specific to Catholicism, like "no more using young acolytes' rectums as snooker tables."
It still has priests and bishops, altars and stained-glass windows. But it is flexible to the point of indifference on dogma, friendly to sexual liberation in almost every form, willing to blend Christianity with other faiths, and eager to downplay theology entirely in favor of secular political causes.

Ross, let's just remember who started this argument, shall we?

For starters, among people who are currently able to sit up and take nourishment, the only ones willing to speak of the whole of Christendom as a two-thousand-year-old monolith free of contretemps and spray-painted graffito until the Sixties ruined it for everyone are people like you: Americans of a religio-authoritarian bent who, just for starters, have to ignore 50% of their fellow religionists in order to make the claim.
Yet instead of attracting a younger, more open-minded demographic with these changes, the Episcopal Church’s dying has proceeded apace. Last week, while the church’s House of Bishops was approving a rite to bless same-sex unions, Episcopalian church attendance figures for 2000-10 circulated in the religion blogosphere. They showed something between a decline and a collapse: In the last decade, average Sunday attendance dropped 23 percent, and not a single Episcopal diocese in the country saw churchgoing increase.

I'm not an Episcopalian, but so far as I can recall their sex scandals have been of the "O, Lord, they've got homasexyuls in their midsts and they're not even stoning them!" type rather than the "forcible serial boy buggery by priests who are then shielded by the Church hierarchy" sort. So I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, and believe that the pronouncements of their theologians and councils have been designed to answer questions of belief, not as a marketing campaign to hook the much desired 18-29 demo. 

Which, by the way, I have no idea where, or if, it's going to church, but I'm pretty sure it isn't buying gayness as a ticket to Hell and contraception as the moral equivalent of murder. Not in overwhelming numbers, anyway.

But where's the Catholic Church in America over this period? Well, for one thing, it rather notoriously counts every American with an Italian, Irish, or Hispanic surname as one of its own, in perpetuity. And still, the only reason it shows a net growth is the rise of the Hispanic population, which is, to be sure, giving it a lot more miracles involving tree sap and burned toast than it used to have. Which may count for something, but it's not moral authority. 

The number one growing "Christian" cult in America is Mormonism. Mormons, you'll forgive me cutting Gordo's Knot here, aren't Christian. The fastest growing religion in America is Wicca. What their marketing strategy is I don't know. 
This decline is the latest chapter in a story dating to the 1960s. The trends unleashed in that era — not only the sexual revolution, but also consumerism and materialism, multiculturalism and relativism — threw all of American Christianity into crisis, and ushered in decades of debate over how to keep the nation’s churches relevant and vital.

Let's just throw all the cards over. It's extremely unattractive in the Rapidly Aging Young to hear them still mouthing their parents' inanities. You wanna blame The Sixties for the evils of sex, respect for ethnic and cultural distinctions, and "relativism", which is religio-authoritarianspeak for "calling out people in High places for hypocrisy"? Go ahead. But "consumerism and materialism"? For fuck's sake, those people were anti-consumerist and anti-materialist. For one thing, they were too busy fuckin'. 

You can get away with this sort of shit preaching to the choir, but you're not supposed to get away with it on the Times Op-Ed pages. Mainline Protestant churches have seen their attendance tumble in the past twenty years. So have Southern Baptists. Religious people have gone Full Snake Handler, Turpentine Drinker, Faith Healer, and Jesus Did To Ride A Dinosaur. This may be important information if you're the local Serpents and Solvents distributor, but as to what it means theologically, let alone as a measure of whether Ross Douthat's sex-repugnance is the New Normal: nothing. 

Is your own Church supposed to be above this, because it can excommunicate the faithless, the doubtful, and the sass-mouthed? The current regime may be hard-line conservative, but its moral authority with its own people is dropping like the Collection plate take at your local Second Presbyterian, and its claim to the moral high ground is gone for everyone else. How much longer do you think you can ignore that?

Saturday, July 14

You Needn't Bother

"Terry Smyth", "Explaining the Cult of Joe Pa". July 11

OKAY, so, it's a thoughtful piece; "Yes, but" is still two words.

I'm not here to defend Paterno, nor really to defend anyone at all. But on the eve of the release of the Freeh report—which promises to be a scorched-earth review of Penn State's handling of the Sandusky matter—I'm compelled to try to explain why it is that so many of "us" seem like cultists, or at least delusional loyalists to a benevolent dictator who it turned out was only benevolent when it suited him. Some percentage is delusional, of course, though I'd argue it's no greater share than in any segment of society. I'm making the case for the overwhelming majority of Penn State fans and alumni, many of whom have made themselves look like fools over these past eight months with maudlin arguments in Paterno's defense. Most aren't fools, and no one I know is a conscious apologist for a guy who appears to have been covering for a child rapist. They're simply stuck somewhere in the first two stages of grief, unable to grasp the apparent truth, livid at a larger world that berates them for ignoring what seems obvious to everyone else.

It's way past time to stop. How many free passes do we have to hand out per day in this country, now, just to maintain the self-delusion of our moral worth? Fuck seven fucking stages of grief. There's no excuse for a non-fool to be there in the first place. It's an institution. It's an institution in the era where forced sodomy, real and figurative, is the fucking norm. It's Big Time College Athletics. You think there's someone riding through that slough who isn't getting splashed with filth? I suppose it's possible, theoretically. It's also possible it could rain Mrs. Rush Limbaugh, Senior's, Jell-O Surprise. It's possible Penn State was graduating 100% of its scholarship football players. And it's possible Penn State could do so and still be covered in shit.

This ain't new, and you aren't exempt because you formed an emotional attachment that went way beyond sanity, or because lots of other people do, too. It's time to stop pretending a reasonable person can ignore all this, and is justified in feeling confident that his side does no wrong. It's bullshit, and anyone who says he doesn't know it's bullshit is bullshitting. Pure Sport may not be a complete fabrication, but it sure is at the level of Division I's major programs. I don't care who ya root for. Just don't come to the rest of us when your program's caught cheating, and act like you've been betrayed.

There came a time--there clearly came a time--when the jig was up. And when the rest of us got to see "grieving" Penn State fans behaving like baboons. And I apologize to baboons. There's no excuse for people defending Bill Belichick. And that was videotape. This is forcible child buggery. I was grieving is not an excuse. "I have a serious head wound" is barely one.

This is what I ask you to do: confront the fucking problem. Reject the marrow-deep dishonesty that's everywhere around you. What went on at Penn State is what went on at BP and Goldman Sachs, what went on in Cheney's private Energy confabs, Reagan's Fucking Treasury Department, and Oprah's Fucking Book Club. After All Else Has Failed mea culpas are worth no more than the solemn pronouncements of the Roman Catholic Church, or the optimistic promises of the Pentagon Body Counters, or the intellectual weight of great institutions of higher learning which have sold themselves out just to win football games.

Wednesday, July 11

Another Fortnight I'm Not Exactly Looking Forward To

OUR story so far: somebody at the USOC--which, by the way, has an award named for George Steinbrenner despite the fact that Steinbrenner didn't pay for it--got Ralph Lauren to design the Team USA getups, proving once again that there may be someone with money in this country who also has taste, but if so he keeps it secret. This is the result, cleverly combining the feline athleticism of professional yachting, the classic, buttoned-down spiffiness of amateur yachting, and just the right hint of Mormon paramilitary commando cadre, topped off with the traditional American headgear:

Plus the one-foot square Polo by Ralph Lauren ™ logo. Of course. Because who th' fuck else could design a blue blazer and white pants?

The criticism caused someone to ask Ann Coulter for her opinion, because, you know, that's what this country was reduced to a couple decades ago at least.

Right-winger Ann Coulter said the Polo logo on the Olympic uniforms is "huge," but, "If you want athletes to wear un-logo'd uniforms, you have to sponsor them instead of Polo. That's just how life is."

Yes, that's how life is. There's no possible way around it. An Olympics without the skidmarks of corporate shit stains everywhere is unimaginable. And will someone please apologize to the shade of Jim Thorpe? A few million times?

I do have to admit there's a certain appropriateness to Ann's idea. 

Meanwhile, this so riled the DAR that even the DAR had to disavow the reaction of its members ("who control some of the most exclusive country clubs in the nation", sez the Post, and thank'ee for that), who had envisioned something more along these lines:

Which at least would cut the pretense.  

And are threatening to exclude Polo™ merchandise from pro shops and society charity-scam auctions from Palm Springs to Augusta.

Th' fuck did the rest of us do to deserve any of these people?

Monday, July 9

See, This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

BARRY Petchesky:

The revived case against Lance Armstrong hinges on more than just blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that reportedly show evidence of doping. USADA, still humping this case years after most of us stopped caring about it, allege "a massive doping conspiracy from 1998 to 2007," involving Armstrong, his teammates, his team manager and an Italian doctor. To back up these claims, USADA claims it has testimony from "at least 10" former teammates.

So go cover a game or something, sonny, and leave the adults to worry about things that have more than twelve hours worth of consequences. You'll understand when you're older.

Barry Petchesky, in comments to his piece:

I'm pretty sure Armstrong doped, but my main objection his continued persecution is NO ONE GIVES A SHIT. Especially not years and years after the fact. Cycling's dirty, we all think it's dirty, even as they catch dopers, we just think it means it's completely dirty, rather than being cleaned up. Meanwhile, a guy like Contador gets cleared on his "tainted beef" defense, and it's hard not to wonder about the integrity of specific investigations.

Well, NO ONE (defined, of course, as the American teevee viewer) ever gave a SHIT about professional cycling, either, not that that stopped professional sportswriters from pretending they did once a one-balled, blood-doping egomaniac American started winning.

But yeah, modern life has been so very much improved by the concept of giving a shit, as explained by over-ripe frat boys who extrapolate the public's attitude from the responses of three of their bros after four beers each.

By the way, in case you don't live eat and breathe the Grand Tour, Alberto Contador has been stripped of two titles, missed the 2008 Tour de France along with the rest of his Astana team, and is missing the current one while on a suspension that lasts until September. Compare Lance Armstrong, who was sentenced to make millions from product endorsements.

Oh, look, Barry Petchesky is commenting on his own piece again:

Not that they shouldn't police it, but my problem is all the retroactive prosecution. Can you imagine if MLB tried to strip the Yankeess or Red Sox's WS titles because Clemens/Pettitte/Ramirez/Ortiz got caught? Wouldn't they be laughed out of the building?
And remember, USADA is funded in large part by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Is there a single person happy their tax dollars are going toward USADA's repeated attempts to nail Armstrong?

So there should be consequences, but only according to the attention span of the average YouTube enthusiast? Always nice to see young people defending the foundations of English Common Law.

But militating against my tax-payin' outrage is the fact that Armstrong's Tour prominence began with funding from…The United States Postal Service, whose multi-million dollar sponsorship of Armstrong came with a lot of checks and zero balances.

Yeah, anyone trying to strip the Yankees or the Bosox of World Series titles would be laughed out of the building--if they were lucky--in part because sports fans are rabid homers, and in part because there's no mechanism in baseball to do anything but suspend an individual player after due process. The Commissioner theoretically has such power, I suppose, but the last Commissioner of baseball, Fay Vincent, was forced out in 1992 for un-toadying behavior.

On the other hand, there are a number of guys who won't be making it into the Hall of Fame or who, if they do, will get laughed right out again. The record book for track and field isn't shit-stained; it's shit. It's not just Marion Jones or Barry Bonds. The people who were responsible for keeping this stuff pure, and fair, and honest, were themselves for sale. There can't be any reasonable question that that was the case. Lance Armstrong may have enough money to be as litigious as Disney. Fine. But the statute of limitations should run until the stench is dispersed from all this stuff, something much, much longer than the attention span of your average sportswriter.

Thursday, July 5


IT was a peaceful Fourth here (in other words, not at all in accordance with the hyper-militarization of Every Holiday Not Directly Involving Jesus), no houses in the neighborhood burned down or nothin'.

The drought had led Mayor Gomer F. Ballard, USMC, to ban the use of personal fireworks for a week, a move which probably kept the number of houses destroyed locally in the low double digits. The Fireworks Retailers Association at first threatened to challenge the ban in court, then decided, within 24 hours, that playing Good Corporate Citizen in a time of emergency was a better ploy.

Now, for those of you who missed it, fireworks other than sparklers were illegal in Indiana until a decade ago, when the World's Third Worst State Legislature™, having collected the obligatory ten years worth of prepayments, legalized everything short of 1/4 sticks of dynamite for personal use. Because Freedom!, of course. A couple years and a few more suitcases full of cash later it came back to include everything up to a 1/2 stick of dynamite, which brought the state in line with the industry standard. (The revision also removed the comical provision in the earlier law which required participating Hoosiers to sign a pledge agreeing to fire the things off legally. Har har har!) And just in case anyone imagined this really was consumer-driven, the freedom-lovin' anti-statists of both the Republican and the Republican-Democratic parties attempted to force the hand of any local community which presumed to ban or restrict the things anyway, by writing into the law the fucking hours the things could be used.  Which the law doesn't, actually, since overriding every local noise and fire regulation in the state was beyond even these bozos.  Instead it actually establishes hours when the things positively cannot be used, but it was immediately bruited about that one was free to explode shit until 10pm at night, midnight on holidays, 365 days a year. I don't know if this little service cost the retailers' lobby extra, or if it's part of the package.

(By the way, the retailers not only had standing to sue; they probably had the law on their side, since it also excludes fireworks from emergency bans.)

Anyhoo, it was fairly remarkable last night to walk outside in the gloaming and here nothing but the earliest of cicadas. The booming, naturally of the loudest and most window-shaking variety legally available, didn't start until after dark, ended by midnight, sorta, and was too far away to locate and report.

It was an interesting object lesson: pleas for sanity and self-regulation had been all over the local newscasts for a fortnight; those are the same people who welcomed a new category of advertiser to town a few years back, and who run the obligatory Mannequin Getting Its Head Blown Off video every year the way some people go to church for Easter. Except the people in church don't chuckle, or sneer, while the service is on. Then Republican local governments all over the state started banning the things, obliging the local teleprompter readers to hunt down people who stockpile enough explosives to take down a Caribbean dictator each summer, but who, of course, told the cameras they'd be observing the ban, because Common Sense. If there was actually someone out there in Teevee Land who realizes this stuff isn't being sold to the most responsible and civic-minded among us, and that now they were left hoping that drunken yahoos didn't burn their own homes to the ground, they managed to conceal it.

So then, despite some grumbling, Freedom-loving Americans by and large abdicated their precious rights for the Common Good, and Libertoonianism-spouting governments turned draconian. Even Mitch Daniels gave the bans his approval.

He didn't exactly explain why, yet again, the One True Religion of unfettered piracy fell short. Or why our dedication to Freedom always seems to last just until his sort needs something.

Monday, July 2

Commercial Intercourse

George Eff Will, "Conservatives' consolation prize". June 28

I KNOW the Sundays should be left in the capable hands of Pierce, who has the brains and the stomach for the job. But I couldn't resist checking in after the Hugest Supreme Court Decision Ever, so I taped all three while I did something altogether more pleasant. I got back to it, opened up Georgie Alphabets hosting ABC's long-running Betcha We Can Eventually Make You Miss Sam and Cokie Hour, and tried to relax. 

I swear to God, I lasted one George Stephanopoulos question before I fast-forwarded my way out of the entire interview half-hour, pausing only to marvel at how a worthless turd like Paul Ryan is listened to by anyone. The man couldn't win a freshman dorm argument. This is the fucking United States of America. I know, we're not the most intellectual-friendly society in the history of the world, but did we line them up and shoot them all while I wasn't looking?

(Speaking of which, why does ABC even have one of these bleetfests, anyway? ABC made its one and only journalistic point thirty-five years ago when it hired Roone Arledge to do for televised news what Gene Roddenberry had done for televised science fiction ten years earlier. ABC had to reanimate the corpse of NBC's David Brinkley just to have enough gravitas to even attempt a Sunday. And it's been downhill from there.)

I stopped fast-forwarding when I reached the panel, just because I wanted to see George Eff Will reread his most recent column. This proved to be a mistake, since Alphabets first made the introductions, and immediately after Will I leaned they'd unearthed yet another African-American Republican, I'm sorry, independent  from the Deep South, former Rep. Artur Davis, who was on the panel as the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the Affordable Care Act. (Is it only in America, or only inside the Beltway where baldly selling out to your professional ambitions is a mark of integrity? We owe Axis Sally an apology.)

This was bad, but what was worse was the following introduction, none of than Keith Olbermann, the one-time Official Spokesman for Liberalism. In the end I would last just long enough to hear Olbermann prove his worth. 

With everyone's c.v. established, the Chair recognizes Will, because who better to initiate the discussion than a guy who was on the wrong side of the decision and is now spinning it like a row of plates on sticks? Will tosses off a sneer about how "elitist law professors" had all predicted the bill's demise. Take that, all you people who said I'd win! 

And first of all, what? Elitist Law Professors have to work Sundays? Just once I'd like to see Will--or any of those fuckers--have to argue with a real person, instead of recycling Reagan zingers.

Anyway, after Davis gets the opportunity to call Will something like "the panel's Constitutional scholar"--Davis has a law degree, and has just finished listening to the man garble the notion of precedence, if not the very concept of jurisprudence itself--Olbermann steps up, clears his throat, and proceeds to make the argument that stupid people will interpret this as a win for the President. At which point I not only erased the tape, I erased Meet the Press and Senior Moment with Bob Schieffer, just for good measure.

Fer chrissakes, Keith, you had the weekend to study precisely what Will was going to say, and you went with "on the other hand, people who don't know anything about the law will…" which ceded Will an intelligence he doesn't have, something which accounts for his entire thirty year career. Okay, so maybe "no making George Eff Will look like anything less that the premier Conservative intellectual" is written in everybody's contract at ABC, but I seriously doubt that's necessary. And, I dunno, maybe your marital record's as spotty as your employment record, and you're currently living on Green Room gift baskets. 

And while it is, maybe, a point that the average American has little interest in politics, and grasps only the Win/Lose blather of the headline writers (we know, already!), it's also true that at that moment you were sitting in one of the power centers where facts are shrunk to fit the narrative, and you'd just listened to George Eff Will recite the latest rewrite of those facts for "the other" end of the political spectrum, which is willfully engaged in blurring the facts. Jesus Christ. the "conservative" "argument" that the Affordable Care Act was "unConstitutional" was pure fabrication. It only made it to the point of The Most Anticipated Decision in Court History because of politics. I know, I know: Will has a formidable arsenal of McKinley anecdotes. Wade in, take a punch or two, and deck him. It's three decades overdue, and there's no excuse for some light-punching British club fighter to have survived anywhere near that long on fancy footwork. Fer chrissakes, liberalism--at least historical liberalism--in this country is pugnacious and muscular. When did "no hitting back" become its watchword? 
The health-care legislation’s expansion of the federal government’s purview has improved our civic health by rekindling interest in what this expansion threatens — the Framers’ design for limited government. Conservatives distraught about the survival of the individual mandate are missing the considerable consolation prize they won when the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional rationale for the mandate — Congress’s rationale — that was pregnant with rampant statism.

Fer cryin' out loud, the reason it's necessary to "rekindle" "conservative" interest in the only thing "conservatives" have been talking about since the 1980 election is the lack of fuel once you get the fire started. 

The "Framers' design for limited government", such as it was, didn't survive the Washington administration, let alone two centuries of unimaginable scientific and technical advancement. 
The case challenged the court to fashion a judicially administrable principle that limits Congress’s power to act on the mere pretense of regulating interstate commerce. At least Roberts got the court to embrace emphatic language rejecting the Commerce Clause rationale for penalizing the inactivity of not buying insurance:

Roberts leads a 5-4 majority of corporate wingnuttery, allied with general wingnuttery. To suggest that he "got" the Court to go along with the questionable, if not rabidly partisan, reading of the Commerce clause in this one instance is simply disingenuous. There were--and are--five anti-Obama votes on the Roberts Court, a majority with a record of making decisions rather notably devoid of established principle. Faced with a frankly amateurish argument which was nothing but an ad hoc--and sui generis--attempt to overturn social spending, Roberts found a way to rule in the Act's favor; he did so in what can only be imagined as an attempt to head off a serious diminution of the Court's prestige and reputation for serious, non-political deliberation, if any such still exists, and perhaps in fear of the rather jumbo-sized can o' worms which would have been opened by overturning post-Gilded Age precedent on Commerce. Ya think this ruling, and this Court, is still gonna persuade people decades from now? I don't care if the man stays on the Court for forty more years. He's Roger Taney. 
The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. ... The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. ...

Is anybody gonna be quoting this nonsense in fifty years? The Sacred American Right of non-activity in non-commerce? Regulating activity presupposes regulating non-activity, and it happens all the time, in commerce and elsewhere. (To this extent, Olbermann was right.) The government prohibits me from hiring a licensed contractor to do non-code work, and forbids me from selling my house if I do so anyway. It requires me to cut my grass, make necessary repairs, and hook up to the public sewer line. It prevents me from smelting ore in my garage, even if I do so only as a hobby. It forbids my discrimination due to race, creed, or national origin, even if I "opt out" of being reasonable. That argument was never worth the vapor it was created out of, sorely with the intention of challenging Obamacare. 
If the mandate had been upheld under the Commerce Clause, the Supreme Court would have decisively construed this clause so permissively as to give Congress an essentially unlimited police power — the power to mandate, proscribe and regulate behavior for whatever Congress deems a public benefit.
Y'all let me know when this becomes the "conservative" bête noire, will ya? 

Where was this supposedly going in the hands of Democrats? Was broccoli the best you had?

Do we really have to note just how much the modern "movement" "conservative" gleefully accepts (Republican Presidential war powers, the five-ocean Navy, warrantless government eavesdropping, "extraordinary rendition", the entirety of corporate law) which would have made John Adams blanch? Can't we at least hold them responsible for their facile libertoonianism? Can't somebody punch George Eff Will in the nose, just figuratively, just once?