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surprising insight given the source: "The White Minstrel Show"

from The National Review of all places ...

by KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON ( who, for all his other flaws, managed to write an insightful opEd critiquing conservatism)

My disagreements with him are where he dismisses external factors which worsen outcomes and falls back to the trope of "Pulling yourself up by own bootstraps" etc. Other than that, he is spot on in his dissection of anti-elitist populism.

White people acting white have embraced the ethic of the white underclass, which is distinct from the white working class, which has the distinguishing feature of regular gainful employment. The manners of the white underclass are Trump’s — vulgar, aggressive, boastful, selfish, promiscuous, consumerist. The white working class has a very different ethic. Its members are, in the main, churchgoing, financially prudent, and married, and their manners are formal to the point of icy politeness. You’ll recognize the style if you’ve ever been around it: It’s “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” but it is the formality of soldiers and police officers — correct and polite, but not in the least bit deferential. It is a formality adopted not to acknowledge the superiority of social betters but to assert the equality of the speaker — equal to any person or situation, perfectly republican manners. It is the general social respect rooted in genuine self-respect.

Its opposite is the sneering, leveling, drag-’em-all-down-into-the-mud anti-“elitism” of contemporary right-wing populism. Self-respect says: “I’m an American citizen, and I can walk into any room, talk to any president, prince, or potentate, because I can rise to any occasion.” Populist anti-elitism says the opposite: “I can be rude enough and denigrating enough to drag anybody down to my level.” Trump’s rhetoric — ridiculous and demeaning schoolyard nicknames, boasting about money, etc. — has always been about reducing. Trump doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to duke it out with even the modest wits at the New York Times, hence it’s “the failing New York Times.” Never mind that the New York Times isn’t actually failing and that any number of Trump-related businesses have failed so thoroughly that they’ve gone into bankruptcy; the truth doesn’t matter to the argument any more than it matters whether the fifth-grade bully actually has an actionable claim on some poor kid’s lunch money. It would never even occur to the low-minded to identify with anybody other than the bully. That’s what all that ridiculous stuff about “winning” was all about in the campaign. It is might-makes-right, i.e., the politics of chimpanzee troupes, prison yards, kindergartens, and other primitive environments. That is where the underclass ethic thrives — and how “smart people” came to be a term of abuse."


The populist Right’s abandonment of principle has been accompanied by a repudiation of good taste, achievement, education, refinement, and manners — all of which are abominated as signs of effete “elitism.” During the Clinton years, Virtue Inc. was the top-performing share in the Republican political stock exchange. Fortunes were made, books were sold by the ton, and homilies were delivered. The same people today are celebrating Donald Trump — not in spite of his being a dishonest, crude serial adulterer but because of it. His dishonesty, the quondam cardinals of Virtue Inc. assure us, is simply the mark of a savvy businessman, his vulgarity the badge of his genuineness and lack of “political correctness,” and his pitiless abuse of his several wives and children the mark of a genuine “alpha male.”

No less a virtue entrepreneur than Bill Bennett dismissed those who pointed out Trump’s endless lies and habitual betrayals as suffering from “moral superiority,” from people on “high horses,” and said that Trump simply is “a guy who says some things awkwardly, indecorously, infelicitously.” Thus did the author of The Book of Virtues embrace the author of “Grab ’Em By the P***y.”

We need a Moynihan Report for conservative broadcasters. The problem, in Bennett’s telling (and that of many other conservatives), isn’t that Trump is a morally defective reprobate but that he is aesthetically displeasing to overly refined “elitists.” That is a pretty common line of argument — and an intellectual cop-out — but set that aside for the moment. Let’s pretend that Bennett et al. are correct and this is simply a matter of manners. Are we now to celebrate vulgarity as a virtue? Are we to embrace crassness? Are we supposed to pretend that a casino-cum-strip-joint is a civilizational contribution up there with Notre-Dame, that the Trump Taj Mahal trumps the Taj Mahal? Are we supposed to snigger at people who ask that question? Are we supposed to abandon our traditional defense of standards to mimic Trump’s bucket-of-KFC-and-gold-plated-toilet routine? "


"What the Trump-style would-be tribunes of the plebs most have in common with self-appointed progressive advocates for the poor is ignorance of the actual subject matter. It weren’t the scheming Chinaman what stole ol’ Bubba’s job down Bovina, ’cause ol’ Bubba didn’t really have him a job to steal. And it isn’t capitalism that made rural Appalachia or small-town Texas what it is. Well-heeled children of privilege such as Elizabeth Bruenig condescend to speak on behalf of people and communities about whom they know practically nothing — people who have not, let’s remember, asked the well-scrubbed sons and daughters of the ruling class to speak on their behalf. When they were asked, they chose Donald Trump by a very large margin, but then the poor make poor choices all the time — that’s part of why they’re poor. The Left is convinced of Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? thesis, that the poor and struggling in the conservative and rural parts of the country are just too besotted with Jesus talk and homosexual panic to understand what actually is at stake, and who therefore — the famous phrase — “vote against their own economic interests.” Progressives preach about — and to — people with whom they have no real connection, and do so in ways that would embarrass them to death if it were a racial line rather than a class line they were crossing in such a state of pristine ignorance. They are the mirror image of white conservatives who wonder why poor black people in the Bronx can’t just “act white” and get with the program. If I might be permitted to address the would-be benefactors of the white underclass from the southerly side of the class line: Ain’t nobody asked you to speak for us."

Trump, Assange, Bannon, Farage bound together in an unholy alliance

Carole Cadwalladr asking the right questions:

.... if there’s one person who’s in the middle of all of this, but who has escaped any proper scrutiny, it’s Nigel Farage. That’s Nigel Farage, who led the Leave.EU campaign, which is being investigated by the Electoral Commission alongside Cambridge Analytica, about whether the latter made an “impermissible donation” of services to the leave campaign. Nigel Farage who visited Donald Trump and then Julian Assange. Who is friends with Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer. Who headed an organisation – Ukip – which has multiple, public, visible but almost entirely unreported Russian connections. Who is paid by the Russian state via the broadcaster RT, which was banned last week from Twitter. And who appears like clockwork on British television without any word of this.


..............Try to follow this on a daily basis and it’s one long headspin: a spider’s web of relationships and networks of power and patronage and alliances that spans the Atlantic and embraces data firms, thinktanks and media outlets. It is about complicated corporate structures in obscure jurisdictions, involving offshore funds funnelled through the black-box algorithms of the platform tech monopolists. That it’s eye-wateringly complicated and geographically diffuse is not a coincidence. Confusion is the charlatan’s friend, noise its accessory. The babble on Twitter is a convenient cloak of darkness.

In a well-functioning democracy, a well-functioning press and a well-functioning parliament would help a well-functioning judiciary do its job. Britain is not that country. There is a vacuum where questions should be, the committees, the inquiries, the headlines on the TV bulletins. What was Nigel Farage doing in the Ecuadorian embassy? More to the point: why has no public official asked him? Why is he giving speeches – for money – in the US? Who’s paying him? I know this because my weirdest new hobby of 2017 is to harry Arron Banks, the Bristol businessman who was Ukip and Leave.EU’s main funder, and Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s comms man and Belize’s trade attache to the US, across the internet late at night. Wigmore told me about this new US venture – an offshore-based political consultancy working on Steve Bannon-related projects – in a series of tweets. Is it true? Who knows? Leave.EU has learned from its Trumpian friends that black is white and white is black and these half-facts are a convenient way of diffusing scandal and obscuring truth.

What on earth was Farage doing advancing Calexit – Californian Brexit? And why did I find a photo of him hanging out with Dana Rohrabacher, the Californian known in the US press as “Putin’s favourite congressman”? The same Dana Rohrabacher who’s met with Don Trump Jr’s Russian lawyer and – wait for it – also visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy. And who is now interceding on his behalf to obtain a pardon from Don Trump Junior’s dad.


How Computers Turned Gerrymandering Into a Science

..... this isn’t just a politics story; it’s also a technology story. Gerrymandering used to be an art, but advanced computation has made it a science. Wisconsin’s Republican legislators, after their victory in the census year of 2010, tried out map after map, tweak after tweak. They ran each potential map through computer algorithms that tested its performance in a wide range of political climates. The map they adopted is precisely engineered to assure Republican control in all but the most extreme circumstances.

In a gerrymandered map, you concentrate opposing voters in a few districts where you lose big, and win the rest by modest margins. But it’s risky to count on a lot of close wins, which can easily flip to close losses. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor thought this risk meant the Supreme Court didn’t need to step in. In a 1986 case, she wrote that “there is good reason to think political gerrymandering is a self-limiting enterprise” since “an overambitious gerrymander can lead to disaster for the legislative majority.”

Back then, she may have been right. But today’s computing power has blown away the self-limiting nature of the enterprise, as it has with so many other limits. A new paper by a team of scientists at Duke paints a startling picture of the way the Wisconsin district map protects Republicans from risk. Remember the Volkswagen scandal? Volkswagen installed software in its diesel cars to fool regulators into thinking the engines were meeting emissions standards. The software detected when it was being tested, and only then did it turn on the antipollution system. The Wisconsin district map is a similarly audacious piece of engineering.

When the overall Republican vote share in the state is 50 percent or more, the authors of the paper show, the map behaves much like an unbiased one. But when the map is tested by an electorate that leans Democratic, its special features kick in, maintaining a healthy Republican majority against the popular headwind. To gain control of the State Assembly, the authors estimate, Wisconsin Democrats would have to beat Republicans by 8 to 10 points, a margin rarely achieved in statewide elections by either party in this evenly split state. As a mathematician, I’m impressed. As a Wisconsin voter, I feel a little ill.


Clarence Thomas on Trumpism

"Most significantly, there is the backlash against affirmative action by 'angry, white males.' I do not question a person’s belief that affirmative action is unjust because it judges people based on their sex or the color of their skin. But something far more insidious is afoot. For some white men, preoccupation with oppression has become the defining feature of their existence. They have fallen prey to the very aspects of the modern ideology of victimology that they deplore….They must remember they if we are to play the victim game, the very people they decry have the better claim to victim status."

From "Victims and Heroes in the Benevolent State"

Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Spring 1996,

Mass Killings: An Evolutionary Perspective.

Suicidal Mass Murderers tend to have a messianic view of themselves, and their motives are tied to status or loss of it whether they're jihadists, Christian apocalyptics, white supremacists, or just bitter and angry.

For one horrifying moment, they become judge, jury and executioner, inflicting as much terror on the world as they could....If this sounds like someone wanting to play God, it is precisely that: exacting their vision of divine revenge on others, in Paddock's case targeting people enjoying a concert and having fun.

There may be other layers to Paddock's personality that would add more depth to his profile, but ascribing motives like neurological disorders and health issues ( based on no evidence) are all bits of interesting speculation but ultimately a distraction.

This was a man who wanted the world to hurt and had the weaponry to exact as much maximum damage as he possibly could in a short space of time.

From Robert King at Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hive-mind/201710/mass-killings-evolutionary-perspective

Mass killings are, among many other things, a deliberate attempt to drive a wedge into the existing social order. That is why they are public, and why the killer seeks to maximise attention, and rarely seeks to escape. Some of these motives are obviously political—the intent is to sow fear and destabilise government--and I am not going to have anything much to say about those. What about people with more individual motives?

Attention to our evolved natures can cast some light on this. (1) Notice I say some light. The evolutionary perspective adds depth to existing accounts—it is an “added value” aspect of psychology, not a replacement for other—more local—explanations such as individual pathology, or why a location or victim was chosen.

I’ve likened the evolutionary account of a trait, to knowing the etymology of a word. For instance, knowing that the origin of the word “lemur” (those beautiful dark-eyed primates) comes from the Latin for “spirits of the dead” adds something to our understanding of the word. Not everything. Something. Sorry to have to keep saying this but, well, apparently I have to keep saying this. Let’s move on.


Male humans swim in worlds of status, like trout swim in complex currents of water. Anyone who is not aware of this (or in denial about it) finds things like the high rates of male suicide, or the fact that males are massively over-represented in apparently senseless crimes, utterly baffling. (2) Glib talk of “toxic masculinity” barely scratches the surface of what is going on. (3) “Toxic” does not explain the half of it, and it is worth noting that even the most toxic of masculinity does not put off all possible sexual partners.

Paddock seemed to have also been a general asshole and enjoyed berating his girlfriend in public: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-las-vegas-shooting-live-updates-at-his-local-starbucks-vegas-shooter-1507060195-htmlstory.html

Spare me the thoughts and prayers....

because this level of mass violence won't end.

We may not know the exact moment when another mass shooting will occur but we know it will happen again and again.. and again.

These events aren't contingent upon some random flare-up of a disgruntled and paranoid person, these events happen in societies where anyone with a grudge can subject a city to terror with maximum effect - all they need is some cash, maybe a couple grand, and they can turn a city into a slaughterhouse.

"Thoughts and prayers" sentiments and " lone wolf" explanations won't change the fact we need mental health care reform.

"Thoughts and prayers" won't change the fact that as we speak, more weaponry is being produced that anyone with a diseased mind can access without too much trouble, depending which state they live.

"Thoughts and prayers" won't change the fact that in a country with a massive military budget, America seems incapable of preventing her cities being turned into slaughterhouses, because Arms merchants have their thumb on the scale.

And this is also historical. America has whitewashed the original sin of wiping out native American populations by twisting genocide into heroic fables of the wild west and a romanticization of the frontier - and the gun is central to this symbolism.

Now we have the religious apocalyptics, the resentful angry losers who hate to see people have fun because of their own failures, nurtured in a society where the gun is as American as apple pie.

"Making the perfect the enemy of the good."

"My identity as an advocate and activist remained important to me as I grew older. When I myself was lobbied and protested as a public official, it was a little like stepping through the looking glass. Whenever I grew frustrated, I'd remind myself how it felt to be on the other side of the table or out in the street with a sign and a megaphone. I'd been there. I knew that the activists giving me a hard time were doing their jobs, trying to drive progress and hold leaders accountable. That kind of pressure is not just important—it’s mission-critical for a healthy democracy. As FDR supposedly told a group of civil rights leaders, "Okay, you've convinced me. Now make me do it."

Still, there was an inherent tension. Some activists and advocates saw their role as putting pressure on people in power, including allies, and they weren't interested in compromise. They didn't have to strike deals with Republicans or worry about winning elections. But I did. There are principles and values we should never compromise, but to be an effective leader in a democracy, you need flexible strategies and tactics, especially under difficult political conditions. I learned that the hard way during our battle for health care reform in the early nineties. Reluctance to compromise can bring about defeat. The forces opposed to change have it easier. They can just say no, again and again, and blame the other side when it doesn't happen. If you want to get something done, you have to find a way to get to yes.

So I've never had much respect for activists who are willing to sit out elections, waste their votes, or tear down well-meaning allies rather than engage constructively. Making the perfect the enemy of the good is shortsighted and counterproductive.

And when someone on the left starts talking about how there's no difference between the two parties or that electing a right-wing Republican might somehow hasten "the revolution," it's just unfathomably wrong."

HRC/WHat Happened

Russia's Recent Facebook Ads Prove the Kremlin Never Loved Black People

"Evoking racial fears among Americans is an old game for Russia."

What is new with today’s Kremlin is that a new opportunity to exploit race in a different way has presented itself. Instead of siding with the oppressed black American population, Russian security services have clearly realized that it is to the Kremlin’s advantage to side with racist white people. Russia’s own rising nationalism, which views immigration from Central Asia as a threat, and Russian politicians’ support of it make for a very convenient relationship with American racists.

“The Russian leadership sees themselves as the redeemers of whiteness,” said Maxim Matusevich, director of the Russian and East European Studies program at Seton Hall University. “It is a reversal of the past when the Soviets were standing up for the oppressed and the minorities. Now all of a sudden they’re standing up for whiteness. That’s why I think Putin is so popular with segments of the American right because they see Russians as the guardians of whiteness: They’re white and they are Christian, they are anti-gay and anti-minority.”

For more than 70 years, the USSR engaged in a robust propaganda campaign to prove it was the oasis of black liberation. It was all a lie. In its current model of the Russian Federation, the Kremlin has proven that, like its former USSR predecessor state, it will use black people as a political tool whenever it suits them.

We were a tool of the USSR foreign policy then and we are a tool of Vladimir Putin’s Russia now. The Soviets didn’t love us then, and Putin’s Russia certainly proves it doesn’t love us now.


There's an interesting article on The Daily Banter..

Featuring Bravenak - I'm still allowed mention her right?

I know I can't re-post said article here because - well we know what will happen and the AA group gets enough alert stalking as it is......

But it's an interesting example of the privilege and arrogance of those who risked Trump and argued with twisted logic that Trump would be good for America.

Some love to ho-hum anger against third party advocates, but as we learn more about Kremlin manipulation of the electorate last year, the behavior of third party advocates, in retrospect, looks even more irresponsible and reckless.

Rather than engage in a little introspection, and ponder how they were duped by propaganda or enthusiastically spread it, they lash out at those in the crosshairs of the Trump administration who remain justifiably angry at their recklessness and divisiveness.

This tweet sums it up best.https://twitter.com/manglewood/status/795322499538046981

And the article is now in General Discussion! https://www.democraticunderground.com/10029648029

This Terry Gross interview is really really really good...and gives good context to "What Happened"

It's been shared in General Discussion already but worth a repost.


My takeaway:

It doesn't matter who Democrats run: the Right will relentlessly swiftboat and demonize them. With allies like the Mercers, Cambridge Analytica, and other arms of the RW media, (and Kremlin interference and Republican complicity ), Democrats must understand the divisive tactics of their opponents. Hillary succinctly breaks down the challenges we face, globally, from Right Wing forces.

Further, one of the many lessons of "What Happened" is the insidiousness of the dangerous supposition that the Democratic party is a failing institution. Risks were taken, with healthcare reform, and Democrats paid a massive political price for trying to fix problems courtesy the Bush Administration. Democrats may have lost the meme wars, may have been out-financed and outplayed by well-funded Right Wing think tanks and funding - funding which financed opposition and obstruction to Obama during his presidency - but that does not equal a failing party. We must never forget a minority of voters determined the course of America and they do not represent all 300 million Americans.

Another lesson of the book for me personally, and further confirmed in reactions to Hillary's recent interviews where she's described as newly "unguarded" and "real" compared to Hillary the candidate, is the fallacy of authenticity and likability politics.

We've all heard the complaints that Hillary is insincere and inauthentic, affecting her "likeability", but insincerity/inauthenticity comes with practice and one would think if there was any truth to that claim, that by now she would be good at it and it would go unnoticed, yet her detractors constantly feel the need to repeat the insincerity meme, as if to convince themselves and others. The contradictions in the Hillary critiques are mind-boggling.

The main problem with "likability" and "Authenticity" metrics is that they divert attention away from a person's actual record and their actions.

No surprises then, that an authentically horrible narcissist is in the WH.

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