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Interruption

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It's been extra bad ever since my GPS got stuck on Phoebe Judge mode.
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wyeager
85 days ago
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Criminal Podcast and This is Love are the best.
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The Hollow Men

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This portrait of two of the most egregious Trump lickspittles in Washington, Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham, reflects something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, which is the extent to which the hunger for celebrity has become the driving force in American culture and politics.

What Trump, McCarthy, and Graham all have in common is that they want to be the center of attention – they’re all desperate to be, in the Washington parlance, “relevant.”  None of these men seem to have any genuine political commitments per se: they are pure careerists, and their “careers” consist of simply trying to be and remain famous.

One thing the piece does really well is capture how DC in general and the Republican party in particular is full of people like this. 

McCarthy’s visit [to Mar-a-Lago eight days after the insurrection] set off a parade of ring-kissing pilgrimages. Graham headed down to Florida again and again, so often that his host couldn’t help but marvel. “Jesus, Lindsey must really like to play golf,” Trump told an aide, according to a report in The New York Times. Graham “would show up at Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster to play free rounds of golf, stuff his face with free food, and hang out with Trump and his celebrity pals,” observed Stephanie Grisham, the former White House press secretary and top aide to Melania Trump, in her memoir. Grisham wrote that she and some colleagues referred to Graham as “Senator Freeloader.”

In April 2021, Senator Rick Scott of Florida showed up in Palm Beach to present Trump with the first-ever “Champion for Freedom” trophy, an award Scott invented just for that momentous occasion. It was kind of a lame trophy, to be honest—a puny silver bowl, roughly the size of the participation trophy my daughter got for her incredible hard work and dedication on the fifth-grade soccer team (so proud of you, Franny!). But Trump, who held the memento out for the cameras like a hot-fudge sundae, beamed at the recognition. Did Obama ever win a Champion for Freedom trophy? Don’t think so!

Watching the procession of GOP genuflectors, I was reminded of Susan Glasser’s 2019 profile of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in The New Yorker, in which she quoted a former American ambassador describing Pompeo as “a heat-seeking missile for Trump’s ass.” This image stuck with me (unfortunately) and also remained a pertinent descriptor for much of the Republican Party long after said ass had been re-homed to Florida.

One of Donald Trump’s special talents is that he triggers the most extreme toadyism imaginable among people who have been toadies all their lives, but are now being given the opportunity to achieve a kind of Platonic Form of toadyism.  This, the piece argues, is the key to understanding Trump’s continuing hold over the GOP.  There are, it’s true, some people in it who are genuinely ignorant and idiotic enough not to be “in on the joke” that is Donald Trump – Lauren Boebert is adduced as an example – but most of the Republican movers and shakers in DC are perfectly well aware of what Trump is, and they are terrified of the prospect of his second presidential term.

But they continue to support him because this remains, for the moment, the savvy play, and these people want to be famous and relevant and “popular,” and they will do literally anything in the pursuit of that goal.

Behind all this, of course, is the ravening GOP base, which loves Donald Trump precisely because, in the most deeply perverse way possible, he isn’t a phony, or at least not the same kind of phony as Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham.   Trump doesn’t even pretend to care about anything other than his mind-blowingly petty hunger for celebrity, which in Washington DC —  a town that is Hollywood for ugly people, academia for stupid people, and high school for people who never grew up – makes him a kind of paragon of certain especially disgusting form of authenticity.

At the moment, we’re in the grip of yet another wave of wishful thinking that Trump is losing “relevance,” that he’s going to be displaced by Ron DeSantis or some other smooth-talking aspiring fascist, and that he’s fated to fade away.  I don’t think so, because Donald Trump still owns Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham and the rest of them.

McCarthy hates discussing 2024 on the record. Mostly because it involves talking about Trump. “Why do you keep asking me about Trump?” McCarthy said to me when I accompanied him to Iowa last year. It was as if the former president were sitting on his shoulder, watching for any sign of disloyalty. Whenever Trump’s name came up, McCarthy seemed to be bracing for an orange light fixture to drop on his head.

But it’s fun to make McCarthy squirm, so I asked him if he thought Trump would run again. He flashed me a look—not a nice one.

“I think he’ll talk about it,” McCarthy said, finally. “I don’t think he’ll make that decision until later.”

Did McCarthy want Trump to run? His look got even dirtier. “I think it’s a long way away,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of stuff that’s gonna happen prior to that.”

McCarthy will not be winning any Profile in Courage Award anytime soon. In fairness, that could make him a good fit for the cowardly caucus he is so eager to lead.

Soon enough, 2024 will not be a long way away, and Trump is well positioned to claim his third consecutive Republican presidential nomination. Again, Trump will do as he pleases and take what he can take. Because really, who’s going to stop him?

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wyeager
147 days ago
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So good: "Washington DC — a town that is Hollywood for ugly people, academia for stupid people, and high school for people who never grew up"
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Homelessness and the West Coast

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The homelessness issue in the West is quite complicated. Homeless camps have been tolerated in western liberal cities in a way that people from the rest of the country would find rather jarring if you haven’t seen it. Unlike, say, Boston or Philadelphia or Atlanta, the homeless are just everywhere in Portland and Eugene and the Bay Area. And they have a political constituency too that goes back a long time. I remember back in college in the mid 90s when the Eugene City Council passed an ordinance against panhandling in front of businesses and the political response was one of such outrage by the city’s liberals that they repealed it, much to the disgust of business owners.

So there’s a culture of accepting homelessness in the West and that culture attracts those who are living a nomadic life intentionally. But the extreme rise in the price of housing and calamities such as climate change-exacerbated wildfires have made this all the worse. The economic dislocations of the pandemic only added to the problem. Now, the West is effectively becoming like cities in the Global South, where you massive wealth right next to extreme poverty. It’s not good. It’s a complete failure of public policy, one that is deeply connected to the idea that the price of housing is an inalienable right that all Americans who can afford it should receive without interference from the government.

Obviously, this is not a sustainable situation. Santa Rosa is trying to figure it out and this is a pretty good long read on the situation. A quick excerpt:

In creating the Finley Park model, Santa Rosa leaders drew on a few basic tenets. Neighbors were worried about crime and drug use, so the city deployed police officers and security guards for 24/7 patrols. Neighbors worried about trash and disease; the city brought in hand-washing stations, showers and toilets. Catholic Charities enrolled dozens of camp residents in neighborhood beautification projects, giving them gift cards to stores like Target and Starbucks in exchange for picking up trash — usually $50 for a couple of hours of work.

A few times a week, a mobile clinic serviced the camp, dispensing basic health care and medications. Residents had access to virtual mental health treatment and were screened regularly for COVID symptoms; only one person tested positive for the coronavirus during the 256 days the site was in operation.

“We were serious about providing access to care,” said Jennifer Ammons, a nurse practitioner who led the mobile clinic. “You can get them inhalers, take care of their cellulitis with antibiotics, get rid of their pneumonia or skin infections.”

Rosa Newman was among those who turned their lives around. Newman, 56, said she had sunk into homelessness and addiction after leaving an abusive partner years before. She moved into her designated tent in September and in a matter of days was enrolled in California’s version of Medicaid, connected to a doctor and receiving treatment for a painful bladder infection. After two months in the camp, she was able to get into subsidized housing and landed a job at a Catholic Charities homeless drop-in center.

“Before, I was so sick I didn’t have any hope. I didn’t have to show up for anything,” she said. “But now I have a real job, and it’s just the beginning.”

James Carver, 50, who for years slept in the doorway of a downtown Santa Rosa business with his wife, said he felt happy just to have a tent over his head. Channeling his energy into cleanup projects and odd jobs around camp, Carver said, his morale began to improve.

“It’s such a comfort; I’m looking for work again,” Carver, an unemployed construction worker, said in November while cleaning stacks of storage totes handed out to camp residents. “I don’t have to sleep with one eye open.”

Jennielynn Holmes, who runs Catholic Charities’ homeless services in Northern California, said the Finley Park experiment helped in ways she didn’t expect.

“This taught us valuable lessons on how to keep the unsheltered population safe, but also we were able to get people signed up for health care and ready for housing faster because we knew where they were,” Holmes said. Of the 208 people served at the site, she said, 12 were moved into permanent housing and nearly five dozen placed in shelters while they await openings.

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wyeager
590 days ago
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I'm a homeowner in this community and I fully support the Finley Park model, there and everwhere.
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Journey of the Magi

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All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Here’s an epiphany for you: There’s a straight line from the Merrick Garland affair to a large majority of Republicans in Congress refusing to confirm the election of Joe Biden. The logical and perhaps inevitable extension of the principle “we won’t confirm any Democratic Supreme Court nominee if we have the votes to block it” is “we won’t confirm any Democratic winner of a presidential election if we have the votes to block it.”

Obviously the Republicans at this moment don’t have the votes to block the latter, but this is now the guiding long-term principle of both their leadership and their base (Don’t fall for the claim that Mitch McConnell in particular was powerless here: The Senate majority leader has enormous formal and informal power to sanction deviationist members, by for example stripping committee assignments, blocking pet legislation, calling big soft money donors etc.)

Political systems in particular and societies in general both depend on the maintenance of informal norms as much or more than they do on adherence to formal rules. The most basic norm is that these systems/societies assume that sociopaths are and will remain extreme outliers, and that therefore they can be constructed on the basis of that assumption.

For example, contract law in the United States legal system simply wouldn’t work if most or even a large minority of contracting parties were sociopaths, because in game theoretical terms the most personally advantageous thing for a contracting party to do in a huge number of situations is to defect. This is because in those situations the cost of enforcing contract rights will outstrip the benefit to the enforcing party of enforcing them, and the defecting party knows this.

That of course is a precise description of Donald Trump’s entire business strategy and indeed life as a whole: don’t honor your legal obligations whenever it’s to your advantage not to do so. This is how sociopaths think; and someone like Trump literally cannot even understand the argument that he shouldn’t do something that’s good for him because it’s bad for society.

Sociopathy can even be transformed into a political ideology: It’s called “libertarianism,” and its votaries labor mightily to escape the natural implications of their views, by inventing elaborate and subtle arguments about how self-interested defection from social norms will not actually be self-interested in the long run, for Reasons.

Here’s a not very elaborate or subtle argument: Anthropology teaches us that, in societies that live at or near the ecological margin, repeated defection from social norms tends to get the defector killed outright by the rest of the group. Such societies can’t afford luxuries like the delightful intricacies of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, because their members understand that any toleration of sociopaths in their midst will lead rapidly to the extinction of the group as a whole. Hence these societies employ their own versions of summary judgment and Rule 11 of the aforementioned FRCP.

Complex contemporary societies can afford to be more tolerant of sociopaths, because the enormous surplus wealth of such societies creates “a lot of buffers,” as Willie Cicci might have put it. But neither that wealth nor those buffers are unlimited. What, for instance, happens when one of the two parties in a two-party putative democracy becomes frankly and openly sociopathic? That is, what happens when sociopathy becomes a rampant ideology, instead of just a handy DSM-V categorization?

Nothing good.

At that point, that society as a whole is forced to the social and political equivalent of the ecological margin. The implications, anthropologically speaking, of this situation are that the society and those who have put it in this circumstance cannot continue to co-exist, and will not.

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wyeager
699 days ago
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This is why we can't have nice things.
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Numbers

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
Also can we please get rid of numbers over 100?


Today's News:
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wyeager
700 days ago
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Weinersmith getting in on Munroe's game.
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Kaligule
700 days ago
Holly shit, I was fooled to think I am in the other feed.
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1 public comment
DexX
699 days ago
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Hey, that Tau belongs to Vi Hart you monster!
Melbourne, Australia

Oh, Yeah, It’s All Totally Cursed

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In 2005, a 21-year-old Canadian woman named Nicole stole some small artifacts from Pompeii. Since then, she apparently suffered nothing but bad luck, including two bouts with breast cancer, as well as various financial woes. As a result, she has returned the artifacts, along with a letter of apology.

“I wanted to have a piece of history that couldn’t be bought,” wrote the woman, who said she was “young and dumb” at the time.…”We can’t ever seem to get ahead in life,” she wrote, blaming the bad luck on the tiles.

It was bad to have stolen these items, and it’s good to have returned them. But my favorite part of the story is this tremendous bit of trolling from the caretakers of Pompeii:

Over the years, around a hundred visitors have returned small artifacts like mosaic tiles and pieces of plaster that they stole during a visit to Pompeii, according to a spokeswoman for the park.

The items were sent back along with letters from the visitors “claiming to have derived only bad luck” from taking away the artifacts, the spokeswoman told CNN.

A selection of letters and returned artifacts has been put on display at the Pompeii Antiquarium, she added, noting that, while the value of the artifacts was not significant, the letters were interesting from an anthropological perspective.

The idea of these folks just casually noting how cursed everything clearly is, and what a bad idea theft is, really tickles me.

Also, this is as good a post as any to promote one of my own guiding principles for life. It’s a variation on the Golden Rule, focused more on actions. Namely, before taking an action, it’s good to stop and think “What if everyone did this?”. If this thief had considered it, she’d have realized the site would rapidly cease to exist. She might have avoided a decade and a half of misfortune. If more people stopped and thought “What if everyone did this?”, the world would be a much better place.

Link: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/pompeii-artifacts-returned-scli-intl/index.html

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wyeager
778 days ago
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What if everyone shared this story?
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