100-Proof Blogging by Randle Aubrey

Friday, March 31, 2017

WEEKLY DISPATCHES #016: THE ITALIAN JOB



“Weekly Dispatches” is a weekly round-up of some of the best and brightest political reporting the Internet on a given theme, brought to you every Friday to better catch up on your dialectic over the weekend. If you’ve got any ideas or recommendations for topics to cover, send an e-mail to Pink Elephants at 100proofpink@gmail.com.
For those of you who still insist on comparing Trump to Hitler despite what a bungler he clearly is, imma need you to stop right now: you’re giving Darth Cheeto waaaaaaay too much credit.

Hitler was a war hero and a skilled politician for whom the consequences of Germany’s losing the first World War were deeply personal, and for whom the politics of ethnic resentment were born out of circumstances where the stakes for his nation were far higher than our own.

In the years before the second World War, Germany had been brought to its knees by external forces who hoped never to see the nation restored to its former, pre-war greatness. And they succeeded, all too well: Germany was nearly on the brink of extinction when Hitler began his rise to power.

Don’t get me wrong: America is in dire straits, to be sure. But having never seen vast portions of our nation reduced to rubble, then handed a shoestring budget to rebuild by those who waged the destruction and expected to be grateful, I’m not sure our nation would put such a person in power without the threat of such a thing looming large on our consciousness.

Even the most apocalyptic predictions issued forth by the most apoplectic right-wing pundits fail to conjure up the same level of palpitations such as, say, watching Mexico deploying ground forces to reclaim territory north of the Rio Grande on the nightly news might. We’re just not there, and, Lord help us, may we never be.

At the same time, in Donald Trump we are dealing with an exceptional problem, and exceptional circumstances. But they are not without precedent, and it would be remiss to believe otherwise.

To his credit, at least Berlusconi's hair is real.


Back in 1994, a thoroughly disgusting media and real estate mogul named Silvio Berlusconi came through Italy’s prime minister elections like a wrecking ball with a cartoonish blend of blunt misogyny, casual racism, and thoroughly corrupt business practices, miraculously sweeping the election and eventually becoming Italy’s longest-serving prime minister.

During Berlusconi’s tenure, Italy, which had fallen apart after years of austerity politics, became an even bigger shitshow than it already was, hollowed out from within by even more severe austerity measures and the rewriting of the books by Berlusconi and his cronies.

Today, Berlusconi’s legacy is still felt, as the centrists from both parties refuse to learn from their mistakes and resume the dog-and-pony show once again.

Let’s not make that same mistake, shall we?
Rula Jebreal, "Donald Trump is America’s Silvio Berlusconi” The Washington Post, 09/21/15
Back in the halcyon days of late 2015, when the presidential election had just begun and the dark days of Cheetocratic rule seemed as real a possibility as David Bowie dying unexpectedly of fucking cancer, reporter Rula Jebreal was already drawing comparisons between Trump and Berlusconi, warning the public not to underestimate his appeal. Little did we know that she was our proverbial canary in the coal mine...

Evgenia Peretz, “La Dolce Viagra" Vanity Fair, 05/31/2011
Like Donald Trump, Silvio Berlusconi has a taste for Lolitas that nearly got the best of him in both the court of law and the court of public opinion. Vanity Fair covered the story with incredible detail, up to and including the way Berlusconi, backed by a sympathetic court system, literally wrote and rewrote legislation to let him off the hook time and again.

David Broder, “Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough" Jacobin, 03/28/17
Writing for Jacobin, journalist and author David Broder examines the flipside of Berlusconi and Trump’s appeal: the neoliberal, austerity-driven politics that “drained the swamp” of much that makes life livable for the poor and working classes. In both Italy and the United States, Broder argues, the politics of the Third Way are in fact the politics of the third rail, and to indulge them further is to deepen the divide between labor and capital with increasingly disastrous consequences.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A MUCH NEEDED NON-SEQUITUR


This post stinks.

As seen on Facebook:
So, last week, something pretty tragic happened in our household. It's taken me until now to wrap my head around it and find the words to describe the horror. It started off simple enough - something that's probably happened to most of you.

Sometime between midnight and 1:30am, our puppy Evie pooped on our rug in the living room. This is the only time she's done this, so it's probably just because we forgot to let her out before we went to bed that night. Now, if you have a detective's mind, you may be wondering how we know the poop occurred between midnight and 1:30am. We were asleep, so how do I know that time frame?

Why, friends, that's because our Roomba runs at 1:30am every night, while we sleep. And it found the poop. And so begins the Pooptastrophe. The poohpocalypse. The pooppening.

If you have a Roomba, please rid yourself of all distractions and absorb everything I'm about to tell you.

Do not, under any circumstances, let your Roomba run over dog poop. If the unthinkable does happen, and your Roomba runs over dog poop, stop it immediately and do not let it continue the cleaning cycle. Because if that happens, it will spread the dog poop over every conceivable surface within its reach, resulting in a home that closely resembles a Jackson Pollock poop painting.

It will be on your floorboards. It will be on your furniture legs. It will be on your carpets. It will be on your rugs. It will be on your kids' toy boxes. If it's near the floor, it will have poop on it. Those awesome wheels, which have a checkered surface for better traction, left 25-foot poop trails all over the house. Our lovable Roomba, who gets a careful cleaning every night, looked like it had been mudding. Yes, mudding - like what you do with a Jeep on a pipeline road. But in poop.

Then, when your four-year-old gets up at 3am to crawl into your bed, you'll wonder why he smells like dog poop. And you'll walk into the living room. And you'll wonder why the floor feels slightly gritty. And you'll see a brown-encrusted, vaguely Roomba-shaped thing sitting in the middle of the floor with a glowing green light, like everything's okay. Like it's proud of itself. You were still half-asleep until this point, but now you wake up pretty damn quickly.

And then the horror. Oh the horror.

So, first you clean the child. You scrub the poop off his feet and put him back in bed. But you don't bother cleaning your own feet, because you know what's coming. It's inevitable, and it's coming at you like a freight train. Some folks would shrug their shoulders and get back in bed to deal with it in the morning. But you're not one of those people - you can't go to sleep with that war zone of poop in the living room.

So you clean the Roomba. You toss it in the bathtub to let it soak. You pull it apart, piece-by-piece, wondering at what point you became an adult and assumed responsibility for 3:30am-Roomba-disassembly-poop-cleanups. By this point, the poop isn't just on your hands - it's smeared up to your elbows. You already heard the Roomba make that "whirlllllllllllllllll-boop-hisssssssss" noise that sounds like electronics dying, and you realize you forgot to pull the battery before getting it wet.

Oh, and you're not just using profanity - you're inventing new types of profanity. You're saying things that would make Satan shudder in revulsion. You hope your kid stayed in bed, because if he hears you talking like this, there's no way he's not ending up in prison.

Then you get out the carpet shampooer. When you push it up to the rug - the rug that started it all - the shampooer just laughs at you. Because that rug is going in the trash, folks. But you shampoo it anyway, because your wife loved that damn rug, and you know she'll ask if you tried to clean it first.

Then you get out the paper towel rolls, idly wondering if you should invest in paper towel stock, and you blow through three or four rolls wiping up poop. Then you get the spray bottle with bleach water and hose down the floor boards to let them soak, because the poop has already dried. Then out comes the steam mop, and you take care of those 25-ft poop trails.

And then, because it's 6am, you go to bed. Let's finish this tomorrow, right?

The next day, you finish taking the Roomba apart, scraping out all the tiny flecks of poop, and after watching a few Youtube instructional videos, you remove the motherboard to wash it with a toothbrush. Then you bake it in the oven to dry. You put it all back together, and of course it doesn't work. Because you heard the "whirlllllllllllllll-boop-hissssssss" noise when it died its poopy death in the bathtub. But you hoped that maybe the Roomba gods would have mercy on you.

But there's a light at the end of the tunnel. After spending a week researching how to fix this damn £350 Roomba without spending £350 again - including refurb units, new motherboards, and new batteries - you finally decide to call the place where you bought it. That place called Hammacher Schlemmer. They have a funny name, but they have an awesome warranty. They claim it's for life, and it's for any reason.

So I called them and told the truth. My Roomba found dog poop and almost precipitated World War III.

And you know what they did? They offered to replace it. Yes, folks. They are replacing the Roomba that ran over dog poop and then died a poopy, watery death in the bathtub - by no fault of their own, of course.

So, mad props to Hammacher Schlemmer. If you're buying anything expensive, and they sell it, I recommend buying it from them. And remember - don't let your Roomba run over dog poop...
 Did I mention this post sucks, too? Yuck yuck yuck!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

ANTHEM OF THE WEEK: "DUMB" BY NIRVANA



I'm not like them, but I can pretend
The sun is gone, but I have a light
The day is done, but I'm having fun
I think I'm dumb...or maybe just happy

Sometimes, I long for the days when I didn't know the things about the world that I do now, for a time when all I cared about, all I felt I had to care about, was making music with my friends and going to work and getting laid and getting high.

GPOY.
The dog days of sociopolitical ignorance are long behind me, gleefully destroyed in a fit of self-determination years ago. The decision to radicalize is one I'll never regret, for it's taken me all manner of directions that I never would have experienced otherwise.

But those who say that "knowledge is power" often don't mention that knowledge often comes with an incredible burden of responsibility, even guilt. I wouldn't be who I was if I didn't take whatever knowledge I acquire and make it actionable in some way. That's what prompted me to start blogging in the first place, to become a greater part of the conversation about how to govern our society.

Little did I know that, nearly five years later, I would still be at it, through all manner of triumph and tragedy. That I would be constantly exhausted by the creative pace I keep, but never spent. That I would become increasingly jaded at the ever-diminishing prospect of real, progressive change in my lifetime, but never cynical or suspicious of the will contained within the human spirit.

I look forward to a day when I will no longer be required to don my literary armor, and can go back to simply creating art for art's sake. But odds are good that day will never come, and even if it does, I'll refuse. I've always been a fighter, someone who would stand up for others even when I couldn't do it for myself. As long as there are people to fight for - and there will always be people to fight for - I'll be doing just that.

In the words of my colleague the almighty Driftglass, "The cavalry isn't coming.We are the cavalry."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

AMERICA'S OTHER FOUNDATIONAL INSTITUTION

There’s a post making the rounds on Facebook featuring an assemblage of photos taken of black slaves in America throughout the history of that institution. As you can imagine, the photos are quite horrific, as are a great many responses in the comment thread, many of which involve white people telling black people to “get over” slavery because it happened “a long time ago,” as if the ripple effect of our nation’s other foundational institution can’t still be felt even into the 21st century.

It's difficult to know whether this photo was
staged or not, but black children in the cotton
fields was a common sight during this period
of American history.
In that respect, what I found most curious – and more than a little disheartening – is the number of commenters who seem to believe that slavery, for all of its degradations, was somehow an aberration of the American experiment, one that the American South (and the North, for that matter) had some kind of “come to Jesus” moment over during the Civil War that prompted them abruptly, rapidly jettison the practice from polite society, never to be spoken of or seen again. There were also a great number of commenters who ruefully lamented the “normalization” of slavery in American society, as if there was ever a time that the Founding Fathers viewed the practice as abnormal.

Slavery was far more than simply normalized; by the time the Civil War was fought, the slaveholder class saw themselves as true global aristocrats, international jet-setters for whom slavery was more than just a profitable, albeit questionable enterprise. To them, slavery was the prime way in which America could make its entrance onto the world stage as the Age Of Expansion drew to a close, leaving the question of “manifest destiny” answered, yet hardly settled.

What’s worse, they were more or less correct in their assessment: the institutions that were supported by slave labor had not only become incredibly profitable, they were cornering markets that previously had not existed, like the nascent cotton industry. In the years before the Civil War, advances in cotton harvesting and processing technology, rather than reducing the demand for slave labor, actually increased it, rapid plantation expansion and skyrocketing levels of output required massive numbers of slaves to tend the machines that drove the industry. Despite numerous and increasing accounts of terrible abuse at the hands of the Southern aristocracy, many nations (and much of the North) looked the other way as the price of this new product, for which demand was insatiably high, continued to decline.

It was only through the work of an incredibly vituperative, chaotic, and militant abolitionist movement, culminating in one of the bloodiest conflicts ever waged on American soil that the “slavery question” would be settled, and only via the military occupation of one half of the nation by the other half. Slaveholders literally had to be forced at gunpoint to relinquish their “property,” so profitable was the slave system. Even then, the struggle for emancipation had only just begun, as a massive, multinational, multi-billion dollar economy (by today’s standards) had to be reorganized to begin serving those who had suffered the most from it, an effort that was doomed to failure practically from the moment it began.

During Reconstruction, "black codes" were used to exploit the
13th Amendment, funneling tens of thousands blacks into work
camps. The practice continues virtually unabated to this very day.
The massive “whitelash” against Reconstruction would not have happened if slavery was an aberration of the American experiment that the slaveholder class and those dependent on their exports suddenly had an attack of morality over. The Industrial Revolution had created a co-dependency between the two halves of the nation that would not be so easily broken, no matter the massive damage to the nation the Civil War had wrought. In fact, it’s because of that damage that Reconstruction would eventually fail; the South was badly damaged during the war, and a loosening of the concessions extracted from the South was seen as the only way to get the nation back on its feet quickly, lest she lose what little competitive advantages she had left in the global marketplace.

During the Civil War, cotton had gone global, with multiple countries and colonies producing the stuff to fill the gap left behind when the United States went to war with itself. Demand for the product was at its height, and global public opinion of the nation was at its lowest, downgrading our diplomatic status and our ability to command markets. While there would be no going back to slavery because of the 13th and 14th Amendments, but that still left plenty of latitude for creating the sort of indentured servitude, de jure segregation, and so-called “wage slavery” conditions that proceeded the war, as a means to toe the slavery line without actually crossing it. Many of these conditions can still be felt today, despite the numerous advances of America’s post-Civil War labor movement, almost a war unto itself which claimed untold lives and further damaged the nation’s credibility on the world stage.

Former Confederate cavalry commander "Fighting"
Joseph
Wheeler, wearing the Union colors he would
be buried in. In 1898, Pres. McKinley urged Wheeler
to don the uniform and lead the US to victory over
Spain, as a way to help unite a still-divided nation.
Within thirty years of the Civil War's conclusion, the US government would declare the frontier closed, and many those same former slaveholders, having laid as much groundwork as they could domestically to make slavery great again, would become principal advocates for America the colony business. Shortly thereafter, they would be gifted with a perfect opportunity to do just that: the Spanish-American War. It was a perfect propaganda opportunity for settling the divide between the North and the South in the wake of Reconstruction's bitter, collective failures.

By turning everyone's attention to Spain, Cuba, and the Philippines, the federal government was able to bring nationalism to a fever pitch, sweeping all those ugly questions about Jim Crow and the massacre of striking labor unions under the rug for a good, long while. Not until the years before the Russian Revolution would you see any real prominent expressions of popular dissent here in the United States.

Sadly, not enough people have a critical understanding of the Reconstruction era. If they did, they would realize that all forms of labor exploitation spring from the ideas and principles of black chattel slavery as a means to achieve global hegemony, and that black chattel slavery was by no means a failing system up to the moment that it was dismantled. Quite the contrary; it was an incredibly lucrative business, and was allowing America to compete in a global marketplace in a way that she would not have been able to otherwise.

This is why abolition was so incredibly difficult achieve, and why global labor exploitation is so difficult to resist in today’s world: for those who hold the means of production, it is a functional, effective system. Once the working class can truly understand that the capitalist class compensates them only because they are required to by law, they can begin to understand just who’s law capital answers to: labor’s.

SYRIA THROUGH SMARTPHONES: ALEX JOHN BECK PHOTOS THE PHOTOS

"I feel annoyed when I seem (sic) them living in my country, and I have no country."



The story behind the above photo. Syria's civil war
has disrupted the lives of millions, and shows
practically no signs of slowing down.
Photographer Alex John Beck's has captured the human side of the Syrian refugee crisis like few others have.

From designboom:
"When photographer Alex John Beck travelled to Lebanon and Jordan last year, he wanted to portray the gritty nature of the people of these war torn countries, continuing with life despite the chaos around them. And what better way to highlight the similarity between the Syrian refugees and those who read about them in the news than the day-to-day use of the smartphone, forever in the hand of both parties. In his ‘Oxfam’ photo series, Beck portrays the seemingly modern devices of refugees against the anarchaic backdrop of a brutal civil war. With ‘Oxfam,’ Beck sets out to create an acute parallel between his Syrian subjects and his wider audience, photographing the refugees alongside their treasured smartphones and using the devices as a window into each individual’s memories. [...]

Beck realized with the ‘Oxfam’ series that although the devices might not be sentimental objects themselves, they were one of the only things refugees took with them wherever they might go. The smartphones acted as a kind of digital connection with home that could fit neatly into the palm of their hand. Each subject also wrote a handwritten description explaining the importance of each memory, featured by beck alongside their portrait in his collection."
His collection is heartachingly beautiful, and can be found here.

"I am 11 years old. I live in a Zaatari refugee camp. I wish I could be a doctor when I grow up."

"I would like to return to Syria. My name is K-. I am 15 years old."

"I long to return to my home, and to my district in beloved Syria. I wish that my wife, my sons, my family,
my brothers, my sisters and I could return home."

Monday, March 27, 2017

BROKEN CLOCK SYNDROME



Out of the mouths of well-heeled dipshits...
Fox And Friends To Freedom Caucus: You Should Work In A 'Soup Kitchen'
Crooks And Liars, 03/27/17


Fox and Friends minus Steve Doocy took turns bashing the Freedom Caucus for refusing to compromise over Trump's AHCA healthcare bill.

They opened their show playing clips from the Sunday talk shows, which discussed who to blame on the failure of Trump's big legislative push.

Brian Kilmeade said Trump didn't do a good job of selling the bill to the American people, although if he received the votes, the polling would have been a moot point, but then blamed partisanship for this bill's failure. That's right, Brian Kilmeade is suddenly in favor of compromise.

I kid you not.

Fox News and Fox & Friends never found any room for Republicans to compromise with President Obama and cheered on government shut downs.

Brian said, "I don't care how charismatic the man or woman is unless people somehow compromise."

Then he took his shots at the Freedom Caucus.

"They have to understand they are not just up there just to get their way!"
...will occasionally come the truth.

Never mind that it's a few decades too late and a several trillion dollars short, and should be repeated in a mirror as often as possible while Kilmeade bashes his face through.

This reminds me of quiz I took on a dating site once, attempting to assess your general dating archetype:
When it comes to compromise, who's is more important?
  1. Yours
  2. Theirs
 I think it's safe to assume what Kilmeade's answer would be.

"I'm not the problem! You're the problem!"

Here's the clip:


Saturday, March 25, 2017

IRON FIST'S "WHITE SAVIOR" PROBLEM HAS A BUILT-IN SOLUTION: THE DEFENDERS

UPDATE: Jessica Jones was created in 2002, not in the seventies as the article suggests. My sincerest apologies, fellow nerds; I hope that, despite my failure to fact check, my point still stands. -Randle
Let’s face it: Marvel’s Iron Fist is not a very good show. From the casting to the script to the lackluster fight choreography, it’s clear that Marvel Studios really hit a wall with the production of this show, much to the dismay of fans everywhere. The problem is, as a necessary step towards producing The Defenders, Iron Fist didn’t have to be good. It just had to be made. In fact, making it too good would probably have been a mistake.

My theory anchors around the central critique of the show, which is the casting Finn Jones (Game Of Thrones) – a white, British actor – as the titular character.
“When Jones' casting was announced in early 2016, a large contingent of fans were sorely disappointed. The character of Iron Fist is a product of the '70s, when the trope of a Westerner (see: white guy) becoming the greatest martial artist ever and supreme protector of an Asian culture didn't seem problematic, and many fans and critics felt that Marvel could most effectively update the character by giving him Asian ethnicity. Strong writing and a sensitive lead performance may have sidestepped this issue, but the first season of Iron Fist delivered neither. […]

Of course, the problem doesn't lie solely with the fact that the Danny Rand of the MCU is a white, ultra-rich jerk—if it did, Tony Stark wouldn't be a household name—and Jones notwithstanding, the show's cast is quite diverse. But with so much of Iron Fist's pre-release buzz centered on its perceived diversity problem, its tone-deafness in that respect does it no favors.”
Or, as Gizmodo put it when the news dropped:
“Yes, it’s true that the comics character Iron Fist is white, and thus it is indeed technically accurate for a white guy to play the role on TV. But technical accuracy does not equate “the right thing,” for lack of a better term. Because as with so many superheroes, there is nothing about the character of Iron Fist that requires him to be played by a white person. Nothing. It is fundamental to no aspect of his personality, his origin, his powers.”
Both critiques are correct, to a point. Casting a white guy in the lead does no favors for the show, as the character is no more fundamentally white than, say, Captain America or Iron Man. But as part of Marvel’s Netflix-anchored world-building enterprise, Iron Fist does not exist in a vacuum. When stacked up against the other members of the team, not only does Marvel’s decision to keep Iron Fist white begin to make more sense, but it’s difficult to see them going any other way.

In the seventies, the grim realities of the postwar era had created an America rife with political upheaval, massive shifts in cultural norms, and widespread soul-searching by much of the populace. Nowhere was this better reflected than in the entertainment products of the era, of which Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist are all a part. From the silver screen to the newspaper stand, all manner of innovation in storytelling was taking place:
“Hollywood began to give up on its traditional pursuit of reliable returns via predictable stars and formulaic stories. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Arthur Penn, Dennis Hopper, and Robert Altman drew more inspiration from the art cinema of Europe than from the old ways of Hollywood. Their films featured more adult themes, moral ambiguity, dark moods, and a suffusing skepticism toward establishments of every kind. What’s more, they were embraced by the movie-going public. Hits like Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (1972), a nearly plotless picture about a kinky random sexual encounter, which made $96.3 million on a budget of $1.25 million, and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 and 1974 Godfather films, which treated mainstream and mafia success in the United States as nearly interchangeable and earned in the hundreds of millions, attested to that. The first two starred Marlon Brando at a time when he weighed upwards of 300 pounds and was nearly 50 years old. A willingness to cast leading men who were not conventionally attractive––short, Jewish Dustin Hoffman; sunken-faced Elliott Gould––was another sign of what critics celebrated as the country’s newly maturing cinematic taste.

That, too, felt permanent. At the Oscars in 1976 the deeply subversive, anti-institutional parable One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – another $100 million earner – took home all five of the major statues. Then came the 1977 Academy Award ceremony on March 28. The best picture also-rans were perfect specimens of perhaps the greatest year for New Hollywood cinema: Network, an over-the-top satire of how TV had addled America’s soul; Bound for Glory, a visually luscious biopic of Woody Guthrie, with depictions of American poverty as searing as any ever committed to the screen; All the President’s Men, about the bone-deep corruption of you-know-who; and Taxi Driver, Scorsese’s sepulchral masterpiece of urban alienation, featuring a Vietnam veteran named Travis Bickle driven insane by the “open sewer” that New York City had become. He tries to assassinate a presidential candidate to impress the child prostitute (played by 13-year-old Jodie Foster) with whom he might have fallen in love, shoots her pimp to death, then somehow ends up celebrated as a hero in a spiraling headlong ending that left viewers speechless and agape. Taxi Driver was horrifying and an unquestioned masterpiece of the cinematic art. Plus, as the 17th-highest-grossing film of the year, it even turned out to be a financial success.”
L to R: Daredevil, Jessica Jones,
Luke Cage, Iron Fist.
Meanwhile, over at the Marvel Comics studios, the cultural zeitgeist was having quite the impact, as well. As an examination of American racism by metaphor, X-Men was a colossal success, and Spider-Man touched the hearts of millions with Peter Parker’s very human portrayal of growing up as a poor, nerdy kid in Queens. Pressing the advantage into the seventies, titles like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage began to, however problematically, tell stories explicitly from the perspectives of marginalized people, whether it be from blindness, psychosexual trauma, or race, and with great success.

At the same time, Eastern mysticism had become all the rage across the United States, and martial arts quickly became a popular feature on the media landscape. Like so many American cultural imports, it was filtered through the lens of whiteness, with shows like David Carradine’s Kung-Fu quickly rising to prominence as a means to dispense yet another round of hero’s journey serials. For Marvel, hardly wishing to ignore the trend, that took shape in the form of Iron Fist, another rich white orphan, a kung-fu Mary Sue.

On Netflix, Iron Fist apes the white savior myth in a way that would be satirical if it didn’t take itself so seriously. But perhaps that’s the point; you can’t deconstruct a myth – or its architects – without constructing one first.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, CON'T.



From Jacobin:
“Today marks the 106th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which in twenty minutes consumed the lives of 146 people, mostly young immigrant Jewish and Italian women and girls who worked in the New York City factory. The youngest victims, Kate Leone and Rosaria Maltese, were just fourteen years old.

In the wake of what went down as the worst industrial disaster in New York history, labor activists mobilized the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and the wealthier Women’s Trade Union League to win worker protections that we still enjoy to this day. More than a century later, March 25 stands as a pivotal date in the history of feminism and organized labor in America.”
A number of great works have been produced regarding this historic tragedy and the incredible reforms it produced, yet similar events have continue to happen periodically around the world up to the present, leaving many to wonder just how effective telling the stories are if no one seems to really be listening.

Thankfully, most - not all, but most - of these types of problems don't happen domestically any longer, Of course, if the Republicans have their way o'er long, even that might up for debate.

Internationally, however? That's a different story. Shining a spotlight on companies who are perfectly willing to look the other way while workers risk death on their watch, like Wal-Mart did with the 2012 Dhaka Factory Fire in Bangladesh, is indeed valuable. Beyond that, however, there's not a lot that Americans can be doing domestically that many groups aren't doing already, i.e. boycotting and/or demonstrating against the parent companies whose dominion factories like Dhaka fall under. Ultimately, the workers on the ground must figure out a way to mount their own organized, local resistance, creating pressure from the ground up. Between the two, concessions can be extracted, and reforms can be achieved.

The best thing leftists can do besides what what's already being done is work to form the same types of organized, local labor resistance that we'd like to see in other parts of the world. Groups like Fight For $15 are a prime example, but we also need good old-fashioned labor union organizing on a shop-by-level to show that we really mean business, along with working to pack more socialist and socialist-minded officials into public office at every level. By changing the culture and the politics of labor here at home, we can better reflect that change abroad.

Obviously, all of this is easier said than done, and it's hard for anyone to tear their eyes away from the horrific spectacle that is President Donald J. Trump. But the biggest reason why Donald J. Trump is our president* is because the Republican Party and the capitalist class have been so effective in dismantling and denigrating the rights of the American worker and convincing them that it is for their own good.

The ripple effect of this can be felt worldwide, but it starts here at home. So here shall it end, but only if we make it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

WEEKLY DISPATCH #015: RULES? WHAT RULES?

“Weekly Dispatches” is a weekly round-up of some of the best and brightest political reporting the Internet on a given theme, brought to you every Friday to better catch up on your dialectic over the weekend. If you’ve got any ideas or recommendations for topics to cover, send an e-mail to Pink Elephants at 100proofpink@gmail.com.
With the spectacular failure of Darth Cheeto and “Lyin’” Ryan’s Obamacare “repeal and replace” gambit, the left has the Cheetocracy on the ropes, big time. That being said, if the Democrats don’t press their advantage, what ground they’ve suddenly gained will be lost, to the dismay of the nation. But for them to do that will require establishing a new relationship with the rules of the game, something closer to casual disregard over slavish adherence. Because, let’s be clear: conservatives have ZERO interest in following the rules, lest they never win.
Obama Can and Should Put Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court – New Republic
“There are consequences to one party being more aggressive about defying governing norms. If liberal legislation can’t break a Republican filibuster, but Democrats don’t offer the same resistance, the playing field is tilted to conservative policy. If Republicans use any maneuver to get appointees in place, and Democrats don’t, conservatives become more likely to be ensconced at executive agencies. If Republicans are willing to blackmail the government and Democrats aren’t, they get more concessions from that blackmail. If Republicans use gerrymandering and voter suppression and every available tool more sharply than Democrats, we get conservative government even if we vote for a liberal one.”
At the same time, that “slavish adherence” of liberalism to the rules of the game is often accompanied by its own gross hypocrisy, often leaving the left often barely able to follow its own rules lest it, too, never win:
Critique in the Age of Trump – The Baffler
“When a “movement” rejects the sharpening of political positions that principled criticism provides, or when criticism is allowed to circulate as a never-ending, detached thought experiment with no practical bearing, people become practitioners of some hazy “liberalism,” “progressivism,” or “leftism,” which is held together less by steel-bolted principles than by the scotch tape of unchallenged consensus…This is a crappy foundation for a concerted political movement, but it works great as a kind of cultural dress code people can use to mutually affirm their shared “wokeness” while clearly marking the boundaries between friend and enemy. […]

This isn’t just about smugly berating dumb social justice warriors, though. The point is that engaging in constructive criticism, without discounting it beforehand as divisive, is necessary for ensuring that such avoidable foundation collapses don’t happen at a time when the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
So what in the end, what are liberals really fighting for? Better yet: who?
From Mother Jones to Middlebury: The Problem and Promise of Political Violence in Trump’s America – Foreign Policy
“There are of course plenty who answer the tactical question in more conditional terms. They point that if you are after, for example, a wholesale transformation of the economic structure of society, then history dictates the necessity of plague, war, or revolution. For them, violence may be dangerous and undesirable, perhaps even futile, but, they say, no matter the risks, violence is far from unwise; it is tactically necessary. Between these and the prohibitionists, there is every other shade of conditionalist, too, examining each outbreak of violence, each situation where it has been proposed, and scrutinizing probabilities and outcomes, like armchair colonels with their own secret checklists. But what I cannot avoid is the suspicion that no matter how it is answered, the tactical question is as practically useless as the moral one. Even if a consensus were reached among theorists — a prohibition or even an agreeable checklist — then how, precisely, would it be implemented? Where does the revolutionary army assemble to take its orders, and where do they come from? Antifa kids in Berkeley do not listen to magazine writers; for the latter to condemn the former is an act of vanity. Protestors in the streets of Baltimore do not check Twitter for a tactical update before deciding if they ought to torch a car. There is no central committee for American radicalism, and indeed what is being contested in radical politics is precisely whose authority constrains us. A tendency toward violence, if it is evidence of any disposition, is evidence that its perpetrators are not terribly respectful of the current answer to that question or its dictates.”
We’ll cover some of those things in the next Weekly Dispatches. In the meantime, happy reading, and like Obama said before, “if you like your health care, you can keep it.” For real this time, though. For now.

AND THE DUMBEST LEGISLATOR IN AMERICA AWARD GOES TO...


...Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. Hit it, Uncle Charlie!
We begin (belatedly) in Arkansas, where the legislature apparently determined to make Razorback football games even more interesting than they already are, only to have second thoughts about it almost immediately. From Bleacher Report:
A new law signed by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday would have allowed concealed weapons to be carried into sporting events and a variety of other locations within the state. However, Andrew DeMillo of the Associated Press reported lawmakers voted Thursday to exempt stadiums and sporting events from the law shortly after it was signed by Hutchinson. According to DeMillo (h/t MySanAntonio.com), the law will take effect on Sept. 1, but it is likely that guns won't be allowed at the expanded list of locations until early 2018. University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University officials opposed the initial law and called for the decision of allowing concealed weapons on their campuses to remain with the schools.
It didn't take long for folks to notice how ridiculous this whole idea was, given the other restrictions in place at the stadium.
Also that day, Arkansas' conference, the SEC, announced a new clear bag policy, banning purses, binocular bags, backpacks, and any other non-clear containers that are bigger than tiny. It expands on a similar policy already enforced by the Razorbacks. Lots of sports teams do this, many of them saying the guidance comes from the Department of Homeland Security.
Because terrorists are much more likely to use binoculars as instruments of mass murder than firearms. Here, by the way, is how Governor Hutchinson answered the obvious absurdity.
At his news conference, Hutchinson said, 'A bad guy could get a gun into Razorback Stadium now. Under this current law, if you have got the enhanced training, then you would be able to go into that facility.'
In other words, don't worry, officer. If I want to kill people, I'm trained to use my weapon very well. I am not assuaged by this and will not be doing a lot of SEC games next fall. Heads up, zebras!
To paraphrase Darth Cheeto, when the GOP is looking for sock puppets to take high office, they're not sending their best. Some of them, I'm told are good people, but...

Wait...who am I kidding? The Party of Lincoln is a self-immolating Reichstag, burning this mother down along with everyone in it.

"The Eighth Of November"

Remember, remember!
The eighth of November,
Republican treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why Republican treason
Should ever be forgot!

Paul Ryan and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To starve families and children
So they won't survive.

A pitiless budget plan, laid below,
To prove the safety net's overthrow.
But, by God's providence, him we can catch,
Along with Darth Cheeto, and the tax breaks they stashed!

A stick and a stake
For Maynard Keynes' sake!
If you won't give me one,
I'll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.

A lump, a rump, such is Donald Trump,
A pair of small hands to choke him,
A hooker piss pint to wash him down,
And a jolly good tweetstorm to burn him.

Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! Think of the ratings!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

“Did 38 heartless New Yorkers ignore the screams of a dying Kitty Genovese on a cold March night in Queens, more than fifty years ago? That’s what The New York Times declared after Genovese was stabbed, raped, and attacked in 1964, her name forever linked to the sensationalized notion of a city—and by extension, a nation—filled with terminal indifference. […]

An injured Genovese screamed for help, then staggered around the corner to the back entrance of the building. There, her attacker, who had briefly run off, came back to finish the job. He stabbed her again and raped her, robbing her of $49 in cash. Many of her neighbors witnessed part of the attacks, or heard her screams. At least two of them seemingly knew she had been stabbed and did not intervene—one of whom, prosecutor Charles Skoller informs Bill Genovese, nearly walked in on his sister’s second attack and phoned a girlfriend who advised him not to get involved. Genovese died in a pool of her own blood, cradled in the arms of the only neighbor who ran to her side, in the hallway of her own building as most of the neighborhood went back to sleep.”
“Chicago Police are searching for as many as six people involved in the sexual assault of a teenage girl that was broadcast on Facebook Live, a police spokesman said.

The video shows at least five to six males – some possibly juveniles – sexually assaulting the 15-year-old, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

At least 40 people were watching the live stream at one point and no one called police, Guglielmi said. […]

Some people are identifiable from the video, Guglielmi said. The teen knew at least one of her alleged attackers and may have been acquainted with the others.

Police contacted Facebook, Guglielmi said. The video is no longer on Facebook.

A Facebook spokesman said, "Crimes like this are hideous and we do not allow that kind of content on Facebook. We take our responsibility to keep people safe on Facebook very seriously and will remove videos that depict sexual assault and are shared to glorify violence."”
I suppose it was easier to pretend it wasn’t real with the sound off. I wonder how those who heard Kitty Genovese’s blood-curdling screams for help managed to do the same?

The real tragedy here – aside from the obvious – is that, when Kitty Genovese was murdered, a couple of editors at The New York Times took it upon themselves to push the “Bystander Effect” (as it would come to be called) angle right to the front page of the paper, spurring tremendous and national outrage that would pave the way to important social progress...
“Aside from the guilty reflections it inspired, the Genovese case had some tangible consequences. It helped in the push to establish 911 as an easy-to-remember national police emergency number; in 1964, the most reliable way to call the police in New York was to use the specific telephone number of each precinct, and caller response wasn’t always a high priority. Two psychologists, Bibb LatanĂ© and John Darley, created a new realm of research into what came to be called the bystander effect, the main finding of which is that your likelihood of intervening in a Genovese-like incident increases if you believe that there are very few other bystanders. The effect has stood up through repeated experiments. In 1977, Winston Moseley, engaged in a periodic attempt to be granted parole, had the chutzpah to argue in a Times Op-Ed piece that his misdeed had wound up making the world a better place: “The crime was tragic, but it did serve society, urging it as it did to come to the aid of its members in distress or danger.”
...but that this latest incident, horrific as it was, barely got anything more than the original “four-paragraph squib buried deep within the Times” that Kitty Genovese got, and most likely won’t get anything better. In the Digital Age, the “Bystander Effect” has reached an unprecedented level of potency, desensitizing us all with precious little signal against a massive, constant overload of noise.

Perpetual outrage isn’t outrage at all. It’s just apathy manifested as irritation. Communicative capitalism, for all of its ability to educate, inform, and inspire, has created a terrible paradox of choice: to expend real outrage capital on one issue, which could be the “wrong” one, feels much less safe than fanning low-burning coals of resentment towards everything in the hopes that, if enough of us do it, we’ll catch alight as one and save the nation from itself.

Rather, all we’ve really done, and all we’re continuing to do, is burn ourselves out.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ANTHEM OF THE WEEK: "FLOODS" BY PANTERA



Shining City Of Tomorrow? My lily-white ass.
"Fourteen-thousand-plus residents – mostly working-class Latino and Vietnamese families – were evacuated well after the flooding had already consumed many of their homes. This does not include the untold numbers of homeless that camp along the shores of the creek as it winds its way through the neighborhood, by the way. Total damage to the neighborhood has been estimated at roughly $73 million, much of it due to poor preparedness on behalf of the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the San Jose city government, and does not account for the inordinate levels of pain and suffering dispossession brings. Neither do the relief checks that donation management services have been issuing to the victims, which have been woefully inadequate to the task at hand. [...]

The Silicon Valley has done a remarkable job of sanitizing itself in the eyes of the nation, leaving the multitudes to believe that the we’re somehow ahead of the evolutionary curve in terms of urban development, civic virtue, and egalitarianism. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a case study in social libertarianism run amok, a Randian wet dream where no one gives a shit who you sleep with as long as that person isn’t trying to undercut your bottom line or the John Galt race to the bottom."
Pink Elephants, 03/22/17
Shining the national spotlight on my home is a Sisyphean task; as the nerve center of global information exchange, impossibly large sums of money are dedicated to ensuring that not a single thing either interrupts the flow that information or impedes its growth.

Meanwhile, not only are many of those responsible for tending that information stream also the same people pulling the levers of power on a national level, but there are very real problems on the ground here that are woefully, constantly ill-addressed as a result, just like in any other major American city.

For them to turn a blind eye is to encourage much of the populace to do the same, and as they do, so does the nation. And so we drown in a sea of our own misery, swallowed by the shadows of ivory towers so high that, to those who inhabit them, the proles are so far beneath them as to be made invisible.

DROWNING IN THE BLAME GAME



My Bay Area readers might recall that, a few weeks ago, a tremendous bout of flooding struck San Jose’s Coyote Creek neighborhood, forcing hundreds of families to evacuate and causing millions of dollars in property damage. For the rest of you, here’s a brief lowdown:

The Coyote Creek flood zone, where more than 14,000
residents were evacuated and more than half a billion
dollars in damages were incurred in under 24 hours.
Fourteen-thousand-plus residents – mostly working-class Latino and Vietnamese families – were evacuated well after the flooding had already consumed many of their homes. This does not include the untold numbers of homeless that camp along the shores of the creek as it winds its way through the neighborhood, by the way. Total damage to the neighborhood has been estimated at roughly $73 million, much of it due to poor preparedness on behalf of the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the San Jose city government, and does not account for the inordinate levels of pain and suffering dispossession brings. Neither do the relief checks that donation management services have been issuing to the victims, which have been woefully inadequate to the task at hand.

This legion of dispossessed people is quite rightly looking for someone to blame for the scope of this disaster, which has unsurprisingly caused a pissing contest between the Water District and the mayor’s office. While this might make for great teevee news briefs, all it really does is allow both parties to stall for time while the victims hole up in overcrowded shelters and try to put the pieces of their lives back together.

It doesn’t matter that we know who’s to blame...
“The district’s version of events shows at 2:55 a.m. on Tuesday, February 21—the day of the flood—the agency’s emergency officials had concluded that “high flows will be reached earlier than expected” and questioned whether San Jose had planned to communicate that information to residents.

But all the uncertainty surrounding the different models from the water district led to inaction. Residents simply weren’t warned until water was already in their homes.

“It’s clear we’ve got to do a lot to improve the communication between the water district and the city,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “And we’re going to fix this.”

In fact, the water district’s timeline shows two days before the actual flood a San Jose Public Information Officer recommended starting evacuations early.

But email records released by the mayor’s office several weeks ago shows a water district government relations representative said the city didn’t have to worry about flood-prone neighborhoods like Rock Springs because, “models don’t predict it will flood until 7,4000 cubic feet per second.”

A terse email response from Mayor Sam Liccardo only hours later says, “Rock Springs started flooding three hours ago. They’re all wrong.”

His staff quickly replied, “The Water Valley grossly overestimated Rock Spring [sic] flood tolerance.”

In fact, the real risk of flooding in Rock Springs was closer to 4,000 cubic feet per second, nearly half the amount of water the previous water district models had predicted.”
...or that they’ve been sitting on their heels (and the money) for well over a decade, leaving what they knew to be a potentially problematic area in the lurch…
“Voters approved $32 million in flood protection efforts for Coyote Creek as part of the Clean, Safe Creeks initiative, otherwise known at the time as Measure B. The district spent a third of of that money on planning and design, but a shovel never hit the dirt.

Now, 15 years later, after thousands of people were forced to flee their homes—and in some cases be rescued—the district makes it seem as if it’s doing the urgent work of the people.

Rick Callender, head of communications for the district, confirmed in an email Friday that this new project will not come from new money. “The 22 million is the same money allocated for the Mid-Coyote Creek Project. Originally $32 million in Measure B funds was allocated for the project,” he said.

So what has changed between then and now except the optics?”
...as long as Mayor Liccardo’s office continues to focus on “communication breakdowns” rather than holding the Santa Clara County Water District to direct account for what amounts to criminal negligence and the squandering of public resources, not only can we expect history to repeat, but as this story fades into obscurity along with the bad weather, we can also expect that justice (let alone reparations) for the victims will never come.

Residents of Coyote Creek being evacuated.
(PHOTO: The Mercury News)
Any relief funds issued by the state or the federal government cannot and will not be dedicate to such a task, and the odds of a private solution are slim to none, as what money has been gathered there thus far (a paltry amount, when stacked against the damage done) must first go towards restoring the neighborhood and relocating the victims. What remains will not be enough to face a monolithic bureaucracy like Santa Clara County Water District, even if those revenue streams hadn’t already all but completely dried up.

So why not appeal to the Silicon Valley’s titans of tech – Google, Apple, Facebook, and so on – to lend a hand? Haven’t they pitched in already? Well…
“More than one resident wondered why Apple, Google and Facebook hadn’t pitched in. (Donations have come from most of the local professional sports teams, auto dealers, Kaiser Permanente, labor unions, Chipotle, Wells Fargo, Safeway and Comcast, among others.)

“It would seem a natural and welcome opportunity for the big tech firms to support people in serious need in their home base,” San Jose spokesman David Vossbrink told me.

No kidding. I emailed the three tech behemoths late Friday. A Facebook spokesman said the company considers its contribution to be the digital tools that allow people to connect during disasters. The other two did not respond.”
The Silicon Valley has done a remarkable job of sanitizing itself in the eyes of the nation, leaving the multitudes to believe that the we’re somehow ahead of the evolutionary curve in terms of urban development, civic virtue, and egalitarianism. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a case study in social libertarianism run amok, a Randian wet dream where no one gives a shit who you sleep with as long as that person isn’t trying to undercut your bottom line or the John Galt race to the bottom.

In other words, we’re a microcosmic incubator of national policy, with enough money to buy enough good PR to never have to say we’re sorry. And for those stand in the shadow of the Valley's vainglorious achievements?

Another flood will be along soon enough.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

IF I CAN'T TAKE IT WITH ME, I'LL GIVE IT TO TRUMP

Apparently, it’s not fake news or Breitbart or 4chan or Stormfront that was responsible for electing Donald Trump: it was your grandma.
The concept of polarization is taken as a given in the study, referencing the above mentioned authors, among others, but its findings come from other recent research. On Monday, Pew released data that shows an exacerbated level of political divide among generations, with younger people increasingly identifying as further left and older ones further right.
 

The NBE study, led by a trio of economists from Stanford and Brown, also looked at political divide on a generational level, but reached a conclusion that bucks the conventional wisdom about the effect the Internet has on our ideology.

"In a nutshell, what we find is the groups that have the greatest propensity to get their news online are not the groups that have shown the biggest increase in polarization," Jesse Shapiro of Brown University explained to me by phone Monday.

"A lot of people believe polarization is on the rise in the U.S., and a lot of have attributed that to the roll of online news and social media, in particular with the idea that online media creates echo chambers where people only hear their own opinions," he said. "[Our] evidence does not square with the simplest version of that narrative."

Instead, they found, it's people who rarely, if ever go online—those 75 and older—that exhibit the furthest swing to the extreme of political ideology.

Using data from the American National Election Study, Shapiro's team examined nine measures of political polarization, including things like a propensity for straight-ticket voting, issues consistency, and religious affiliation, then broke down respondents into demographics that have been shown to predict Internet and social media use. Less than 20 percent of those 75 and older reported using social media in 2012, they explain, whereas 80 percent of people ages 18-39 used the services.

"I was personally surprised at how consistent the pattern was across the different measures of polarization," Shapiro said. "Pretty much for all of them, the older groups are seeing faster polarization. I thought we would see more variability."

The paper doesn't offer a suggestion for why it might appear that those less likely to be online seem to be the most likely to entrench themselves politically. "My own view is the reason is probably nothing to do with changes in media and technology, but maybe in broader socio-economic forces like inequality," he said.
Perhaps it’s got something to do with the pace of change accelerating the fear of death in the elderly, causing them to cling with even greater tenacity to nostalgia for a world that didn’t really exist, leaving them even more ripe for exploitation by those who profit from convincing them otherwise in all of the other venues that don’t include the Internet?

Rush, Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, Laura Ingraham, Bryan Fischer, and countless others have dominated terrestrial radio across the nation for several decades now, providing a vast, apocalyptic worldview to millions of Baby Boomers and their parents in the form of background chatter. For the slavish adherents to their programming, websites like Breitbart and 4chan are where weirdo faggot whippersnappers like Milo Yappitypapaya (thanks Tengrain!) traffic in culture war bullshit that sounds suspiciously like the same kind of “political correctness” tripe coming from those commie pinkos Rush warned them about.

And when they tuck into their evening diabetes plate, it’s time to click over to Fox News on the teevee and tune in to America’s favorite drunken Irish wife-beating asshole, Bill O’Reilly, so he can let them know what animals the blacks in Chicago are.

On the weekends, for “balance,” they watch defense-contractor-infomercials-disguised-as-chat-shows Meet The Press and Face The Nation to get their weekly talking points, most of which involve how Democrats are just as bad for wanting to give people free health care as Republicans are for wanting to take it away from them, and Won’t Someone Do Something About The Dysfunction In Washington That We've Aided And Abetted For Years Now?

Someday, they Boomers and their parents will all be dead, and hopefully, the nation can begin to reverse the damage they’ve created and cultivated for decades. But that can only happen if the incubators for their particular brand of groupthink are shattered into a million pieces and buried under each and every Boomer as they shuffle off this mortal coil. That seemingly unstoppable force requires its own immovable object: a left-wing media ecosystem as well-heeled, virulent, and ubiquitous as they are.

If you happen to know any left-wing billionaires with a desire to make good on such a thing, tell them to give me a call.