Listen boy I’m getting tired of you

28 07 2013

Anthony Weiner is an idiot.

Yes, for the obvious reason of thinking he could get away with sending crotch shots (solicited and not) to and sexting with women not-his-wife, but also for thinking this latest revelation was No Big Deal.

He did intimate, in that long groundwork-for-a-comeback piece in the New York Times Magazine that there were  more sexts out there and they might surface, but as others have pointed out, he also implied that these, uh, indiscretions were looooong behind him.

Hence the more-damning-politically idiocy: He didn’t come clean when he had the chance. Had he said, in the long ground-work-for-a-comeback piece, that it took him awhile to get himself under control, that the sexting continued through the summer of 2012, he would have opened himself to  tough questions about his habits and appetites, questions he managed to duck when he resigned his Congressional seat and retreated to private life.

But in taking that opening, he would have inoculated himself from the derision which attends the latest revelation, forestalled the contempt attendant on the lies about the extent of his crotch-shotting, and thus might still have had a shot at becoming mayor.

I guess he still does, but this past week that shot became a whole lot longer.

Advertisements




Don’t raise your eye

12 01 2013

Oh my Hera, how bad is it going to get?

I just watched—ye gads, I can barely believe it—yet another episode of CSI: New York, and Athena have mercy on my soul.

Yes, I dig police procedurals and yes, I dig New York, but CSI:NY is so terrible it could make someone less steadfast than me hate both procedurals and New York. This last episode? The one where the off-duty got shot shortly after getting off the phone with his cop son of whom he is proud and loves and is shot during a mugging by three black men who turned out to be two white guys and one Latino guy in black masks, one of whom was a career criminal who was picked up and held in interrogation and never even thought to ASK FOR A FUCKING LAWYER and who was totally and completely lied to by the cops (who are shocked(!) that the other career criminal demands a lawyer)—which we’re supposed to applaud because, y’know, they catch the bad guy? That episode?

I can’t even talk about it.

(And if you think I spoiled it for you, well here’s a tip: IT WAS ALREADY SPOILED.)

In some ways, CSI:NY is even worse than CSI:Miami, and CSI:Miami was a truly terrible show. I liked the first season well enough, and watched even after they killed off my favorite character, Speedle, but at some point the posturing Horatio Caine and the stupid my-brother-his-wife-my-employee-his-sister, topped off by the sideways putting on/taking off sunglasses became laughable—and not in a good way. I stopped watching.

But even though I hit the ugh point with CSI:NY years ago, I can’t manage to stop watching. It’s gone beyond hate-watching into a kind of contempt-watch, where I feel like my world gets worse because I can’t turn away from this horror.

I admit that I’ll watch shows long past their prime; see, for example, Bones. I still watch the original CSI, even though it really lost its mojo when Gil Grissom left for the jungle, and I miss weird-Greg. Still, while it’s burnt out it’s not actively offensive, and while the most I get out of the show is a not-unpleasant passage of time, sometimes on a Friday night (I watch on my computer) that’s all I really want.

Law & Order also went on too long, but their ripped-from-the-headlines approach at least gave them something new to film. I didn’t watch the last few seasons, after  Ed (Jesse Martin) left, but I always did like Anita Van Buren. I go back and forth on L&O:Criminal Intent: Bobby bugged the shit out of me, but he was a great character, a bent, psychological version of Gil Grissom; plus, y’know, Kathryn Erbe.

L&O:SVU is the more interesting case. I missed a few years when I didn’t have a t.v. and before the episodes streamed, but I have watched a fair number of post-Elliot episodes. I think I might finally be done, however, because the show has gone beyond burnt out into the nihilistic. No, it’s nothing like MI5—it doesn’t insist on killing off all of its characters—but it’s gotten to the point where I think Why bother watching? It’s all going to shit, anyway. There are occasional ‘happy’ endings, i.e., ones in which the bad guy is caught, the victim, vindicated, but for the most part these are amorality tales in hell.

And that, in a sense, is what makes it the more interesting case: There is no redemption, everything is awful, and you know that if the younger detectives don’t get out soon, they’ll be trapped in the same Sisyphean agony as Liv, Munch, and Finn. It has gone beyond procedural into existential despair, No Exit for the criminally-minded.

It is this numbness, this darkness which might make it worth airing, even if I may not be able to bring myself to watch it anymore. L&O:SVU has gone beyond good and evil and into a kind of overwhelming corruption of everything and everyone, a corruption noteworthy precisely because it is assumed, rather than remarked upon. It is a strung-out losing game, in which everyone, regardless, keeps going ’round. That, in and of itself, makes me wonder how far it could go.

Unlike, say, the simplistic moralizing of CSI:NY and. . . ugh, I can’t even. . . .





The politics of contempt, cont.

12 09 2011

Apostates tend to get attention—of the furious sort from those betrayed, and delight from those whose views such apostasy confirms.

So too with Mike Lofgren, the former GOP staffer whose resignation from the Republicans has been widely quoted, at least among those who agree with his analysis that his party has gone bonkers.

Now, I tend toward skepticism of the reception to such turn-coats, largely because his or her rethink matters less for the thought than for the fodder it provides in the endless schoolyard battle of “I’m-right-and-you’re-stupid/evil”. We welcome the other side’s apostate for the same reason the other side welcomes ours: their apostasy confirms our wisdom.

So, with the additional conditionals that I don’t know Lofgren, I don’t know his motivations, and I don’t know if he’s right, I want to highlight this bit:

I do not mean to place too much emphasis on racial animus in the GOP. While it surely exists, it is also a fact that Republicans think that no Democratic president could conceivably be legitimate. Republicans also regarded Bill Clinton as somehow, in some manner, twice fraudulently elected (well do I remember the elaborate conspiracy theories that Republicans traded among themselves). Had it been Hillary Clinton, rather than Barack Obama, who had been elected in 2008, I am certain we would now be hearing, in lieu of the birther myths, conspiracy theories about Vince Foster’s alleged murder. [emph. added]

That we’re in agreement on this dynamic of delegitimization hardly makes us correct. But it does serve to highlight as a problem something which so many of us have taken for granted as a feature of current American politics.

And yes, it is a problem.





The politics of contempt

7 09 2011

Can I steal from myself? ‘Cause I’m gonna steal from myself.

I’ve been yelping and hectoring and despairing and whatevering for the past year on the battlefield that is American politics, on the Republicans’ scorched-earth tactics, and on President Obama’s unwillingness to open the hose on these arsonists.

There is more to be said on this.

My attention is wavering, however, so I’ll let James Fallows (here, here, here, and here) and TNC run a few legs of this race, and, for now, simply steal the comment I posted at TNC’s joint:

I think this [destructiveness] goes back even further—at least to FDR—but it took a different form then than it does now.

My hypothesis: that the sense of the illegitimacy of any kind of left (center-left on outwards) government used to be on the fringes of the polity, but has since edged into some of the main streams of the Republican party.

There were certainly (loud) mutterings that Roosevelt was a communist, but I don’t know that these came from the Republican leadership. The Eisenhower administration was, of course, attacked by McCarthy, and Kennedy was hardly universally mourned; still, even if the GOP leadership thought that all liberals and Democrats (a phrase that only in the late 80s became redundant) were axiomatically illegitimate, they didn’t say so in public.

The attack on the legitimacy of the government emerged as an open campaign theme in the 1980s; the attack on the legitimacy of Democrats to lead government blew open in the 1990s, culminating, of course, with the impeachment of Clinton. These lines crossed and fused in the 2000s, apparent in the various campaigns, and then going nuclear—with the eventual blessing of the GOP leadership—with the election of Obama.

Again, this is just an hypothesis, and I’d guess that a full exploration of this hunch would reveal all sorts of exceptions and wrinkles and significant subdynamics (such as the movement of white southern Democrats into the GOP); I’d also caution that I think this phenomenon has until recently been confined to the national level.

I’ll let this be for awhile—other things on my mind—but the full flowering of this discourse of delegitimization is nothing less than an expression of contempt for democracy itself.

That bears watching.





In between all the cracks upon the wall

31 08 2011

Coupla’ thoughts:

1. I know I am not the first to take up the issue of the twilight of labor (or, to put it less poetically, of the replacement of the value of labor with that of productivity)—this gent Marx may have had a thing or two to say on this subject, or so I hear—but it seems to be crucially not simply an economic matter but a political one, that is, that the question of value is not simply an economic matter but a political one.

Fred Clark at Slacktivist has covered this issue ( start here, then click on the “class warfare” category at the bottom for more) and ThinkProgress does a pretty good job highlighting the contempt for working people among politicians and some pundits, so I don’t know that I need to repeat their efforts (or those of the Economic Policy Institute, The Nation, and other usual suspects) in documenting this contempt.

Still, because this seems to me to be a crucial political issue, I do feel the need to work through this issue myself. Is this contempt new? When did it begin? How did it manifest itself previously? What kind of pushback was there? Does the contempt arise mainly from the right, or are the politics of it more complicated? Is contempt even the best way to describe the attitude toward labor? What kind of variation is there across different forms of labor? And, perhaps most urgently, how to respond to the replacement of labor with productivity, that is, to the erasure of labor itself?

This might be a way for me to approach this subject without having to take an econometric approach. I’ve held back on getting into this both because I lack training in economics and because econometrics won’t necessarily get to what really matters about this issue. In other words, I want to consider this as a political matter, not an economic one.

And it is a political matter, a deeply political matter. We Americans have managed historically to suppress and mollify labor in turn, but in the last thirty years the grudging acceptance of labor has turned into a grudge, full stop, and labor consciousness itself  has been dissolved. Why this matters, politically, well, that’s what I’m going to have to figure out.

2. I snarked the other day at TNC’s joint that libertarianism is not a real political philosophy, but didn’t say much beyond that. Later, prior to reading Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concept of Liberty”, I wrote that as a

general matter, I dismiss libertarianism as a serious theory of governance, not least b/c it appears to have contempt even for the notion of government, that is, as a form of organization over and above civil society. Instead, I posit, its chief use is as a critique or as a leavening agent to various legitimate political theories. In short, I question its ability to provide any sort of overriding guidance to those charged w/governing, its applicability to any sort of society beyond a small, like-minded group (i.e., fails test of pluralism – this charge of anti-pluralism requires particular care), or its ability to last beyond a generation or two w/o dissolution or degenerating into authoritarianism.

All find and good; there’s something for me to work with, here, But then I realized:

Okay, but what of the critique of Marxism as lacking a serious theory of government? Could not the same charged [sic] be lodged against it – that it works as a critique or adjunct to Liberal theories, but that it, too, exhibits its own kind of contempt for govt? Gramsci might offer one kind of response, but even there. . . .

I then headed into a dead end, backed out, and wondered

Perhaps, then, the question of whether libertarianism or Marxism offers its own theory of democratic (understood broadly) governance? And it not, why do I take Marxism seriously in a way I don’t take libertarianism?

I’m fine going after libertarianism, not least because its noxious fumes are currently polluting the political air, but for my own sake, I gotta take up at some point that question of what would a socialist government look like.

3. Those candidates who insist that nothing good comes from government need to be forced to explain how they will govern. Cut cut cut ought not be accepted as a governing philosophy, and opponents to these anti-government politicians should hammer them on what they will do, besides less-than-nothing.

4. I really was not able to put together a coherent post tonight, but I thought if I didn’t get these thoughts out, I wouldn’t get these thoughts out.





You who are not-me suck

12 06 2011

I’m not much of a fan of the “all people not-me are stupid/evil/greedy/hypocritical/whatever” mode of observation, nor do I think much of the name-calling (sheeple, Repugs, libruls, etc.) which passes for witticism these days.

That said, there are those whose words and deeds do indicate a specific cast of mind which justly be called contemptuous of their fellow citizens:

1. Those who, like Rick Santorum and those who put up billboards blaming “the abortion industry” for killing black and Latino babies and every fucking politician who’s ever advocated, voted for, or signed into law mandatory fetal ultrasound,and bullshit non-medical medical scripts regarding the status of the fetus and the made-up [as opposed to real: there are real] risks of abortion, clearly do not think women matter.

Do not believe we can think.

Do not believe we know what’s going on in our bodies.

Do not believe we are capable of thinking about the future.

Do not believe we possess any decision-making powers whatsoever.

Do not think our lives matter.

On this last point, I give you Senator John McCain and his air quotes when talking about the health exception for abortion, and, even more recently, the former senator and current (or almost) presidential candidate Rick Santorum:

SANTORUM: When I was leading the charge on partial birth abortion, several members came forward and said, “Why don’t we just ban all abortions?” Tom Daschle was one of them, if you remember. And Susan Collins, and others. They wanted a health exception, which of course is a phony exception which would make the ban ineffective.

A “phony exception”: that’s nice. Because no woman has ever risked either her health or her life, has ever been disabled or killed as a result of a pregnancy or delivery.

(I do have to note this delicious bit of turnaround, however: the very same Hyde Amendment which prevents federal funding for abortion also bans states from blocking funding for abortions to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.)

2. The attitude of Paul Ryan and all the supporters of his budget plan, as well as those at the Heritage Foundation who proposed that the feds

Eliminate marriage penalties from federal programs. Married couples tend to be better off financially than their single or cohabitating counterparts. Policymakers should encourage such beneficial economic decisions by removing financial disincentives to marriage from tax and welfare policies.

As Matt Yglesias pointed out, “the basic logic seems badly flawed. Married people are better off than unmarried people, so we need to give the married people extra subsidies?”

The logic, however, is impeccable: those who have more should get more, those who have less should get less.

In both cases, there is a smugness regarding not only the rightness of one’s position but also contempt for those on the short side of that position.

Goddess knows leftists can be smug and contemptuous Fuck that. It’s late and this is a rant and I ain’t got the patience for a game of spin-the-sinner.

Stomping on people with less power than you in order both to keep them powerless and to remind them of your power over them says less about them than you. It says you’re contemptible.

It says you suck.

h/t Matt Yglesias, HuffPo, ThinkProgress