Willard the Cynic

I’m spending the day watching documentaries about inequality and the global elite. Yeah, uplifting stuff. Anyway, I wanted to highlight this passage from an article about Willard Romney running for the Presidency, yet again:

Speaking below deck on the Midway, an aircraft carrier converted to a floating museum in the San Diego harbor, Mr. Romney criticized President Obama and sketched out a three-pronged campaign platform should he seek the presidency for a third time. He said the 2016 campaign should center on making the world safer, offering opportunity for all Americans and lifting people out of poverty.

“Under President Obama the rich have gotten richer, income inequality has gotten worse and there are more people in poverty in American than ever before,” Mr. Romney said.

That bolded part left me gobsmacked.  This is Mr. 47%, who couldn’t decry the poor fast enough for being “takers” (at least in the assumed privacy of his own class), now deciding that poor folks matter, that income inequality is a problem. This is a man who is part of the class that has most benefitted from the growth of income inequality, and a party that is consistently seeking to increase that gap.

Willard Romney has always been cynical. The complaints about his last campaign’s nonchalant dishonesty are part of that. It’s the ethics of the elite: “the only thing that matters is that which will help me win.” Willard Romney, and the plutocratic class of which he is a part, despises those of us who are beneath him. That the decisions of the plutocrats, in business and in politics, have hollowed the middle class and reduced opportunity is not only irrelevant to them, it is a lie. To those looking down at the rest of us, the gap is due to our failures, of character or effort, not to a game they’ve rigged in their own favor.

That Romney would name inequality and the concentration of wealth as campaign issues just highlights that cynicism. He’ll say anything to get elected. But he’s incapable of saying the one thing we all wish he’d say: “Goodbye.”

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Forgive me Lidia, for I have sinned

I have a confession to make. This is something that might shock some of my former students, as well as my food-loving buds. I recently ate at an Olive Garden.

It was worse than I imagined.

Like many folks, I chuckled heartily at comments by an investment firm about the horrible “quality” of Olive Garden. I was “experiencing” OG vicariously, though, as it had been at least 17 years since I’d been to one. Even then, my experience kept me away.

In recent years, as the link above explains, I’ve been using OG as an example of “nothing,” or the homogenized corporatized form of “culture” that leads to a uniformity of mediocre (at best) mass-produced experiences. That sense was intensified by the viral spread of a restaurant “review” from someone friends and I would play “spot the napkin!” with while reading. (All of that is in the link above…just got there.)

Anyway, I was recently in Nebraska visiting the boyfriend, and one of his grad school friends had a dinner there. I wasn’t going to go full asshole and stay home because of some anti-mass culture foodie purity (after all, I do love some Taco Bell, so it’s not like I could). Anyway, I decided to play cultural anthropologist (in addition to being the charming plus-one) and use my observations for teaching Intro.

I just…oh so bad. Thank The Universe for wine.

Even in the car heading home that night, I said, “Wow, that was so bad.”

“It was Olive Garden. What did you expect?”

“I didn’t know it would be that bad,” I said, shaking my head.

I thought Hard Rock Café was bad. I thought Tilted Kilt was bad.

I now know bad.

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So long, 2014


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Here we go again…conservatives and the denial of racism

As we move away, temporarily, from tales of the white supremacist police state, we encounter a new racist “controversy” in the political realm: the incoming Republican Majority Whip used to hang out with white supremacists. As Charles Pierce notes, this shouldn’t be the least bit surprising. Appealing to racist white resentment has been a core Republican strategy for decades. It’s not the least bit surprising to see white supremacists within movement conservatism. It’s long been central to that movement.

What’s fascinating to me, though, is the way that conservatives approach the discourse of racism. It reminds me a bit of what Josh Marshall wrote recently about the Palin’s discourse surrounding sexism: they just derp stuff out, not because they believe sexism or white supremacy are problems, but specifically because they don’t.

But this is actually a common tendency on the right with issues of gender, race and much else. If you don’t actually take the issue seriously in the first place, it comes naturally to flip it around in a cookie cutter kind of way. You say we are hostile to women? Well, I saw you be mean to a woman, too! So there! Whether it’s treating women by different standards or bearing animus toward women as a group doesn’t really matter. If you don’t really care about the issue in the first place it’s easy to turn it on its head. Because you don’t see it as a problem but a cudgel, just another weapon in the brick-a-bat of partisan or ideological combat. [Emphasis mine.]

It’s the “I know you are, but what am I?” deflection, as evidenced beautifully here:

There’s a bizarre strain of thought on the American right that the NAACP, LULAC and David Duke’s group are exactly the same. This is, “color blind” white supremacy taken to it’s logical extreme: If discriminating against minorities is racist and wrong, the recognition of race must be wrong altogether. Similarly, according to this “logic,” if conservative whites organizing to use the state against Black folks is wrong, Blacks using the state to remove barriers to their full participation in society is wrong. It’s an up-side-down world in which white supremacy has never existed, either in political or social life. Racism may be “wrong,” so anything that disrupts the (never, ever, ever) white supremacist organization of American society is…racist!

That was particularly evident in a derptastic interview given by war criminal Allen West. In it, he claims that racism is only alive because Democrats use it as an advantageous political strategy, not because racism actually exists. Again, we’ve got the denial at work: racism is no longer a significant social force in America. Next, comes the (political) use of “racism” as a political strategy of one’s opponents. Generally, this is where the nonsense of “playing the race card” comes in. ‘It is acknowledged that racism is bad, but because there’s no racism, any claims of racism are, by definition, false claims, thus casting moral aspersions on those who would make such claims. It’s a lovely little turnaround, I suppose. However, it’s bullshit.

This is why I simply cannot take conservatives as acting in good faith when talking about racism in America. Their dishonest delusion renders them incapable of having a genuinely productive “conversation.”

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Some thoughts on the NYPD and the denial of white supremacy

At yesterday’s funeral for one of the killed NYPD officers, several hundred officers took it upon themselves to protest the presence of the Mayor. Their earlier protests included an airplane flying this banner. The Mayor’s offense, it seems, was publicly acknowledging that he, as the parent of a black/biracial son, has had “the talk” with him about staying safe in the presence of police.

“It is our opinion that Mayor de Blasio’s dangerous and irresponsible comments about his and his wife’s concern for their son’s safety at the hands of the NYPD fueled the flames that led to civil unrest, and potentially to the deaths of PO Wenjian Liu and PO Rafael Ramos, as well as the continued threats against NYPD personnel. The Mayor shows us no respect, and encourages the public to follow his lead.

Note, acknowledging that the parents of black children, who tell their children to be careful around police, are now to blame for the deaths of two police officers.

Excuse me a moment, but what the everloving fuck?!  This is simply cynical nonsense. In no way can one seriously connect The Talk to this incident. There is not reason to take such rhetoric seriously. It’s an attempt to deflect attention and derail the conversation. It’s irresponsible bullshit, to put it most succinctly.

However, the broader outrage, including similar nonsense from grumpy long-time racist Rudy Giuliani, highlights an anger that The Talk exists in the first place. It’s central to conservative denial about the centrality of white supremacy in American society. To them, the idea that the police could be seen as a threat in Black communities is a serious affront.

Why might the parents of Black children in New York City want to have The Talk with their children? Well, data from 2011 are instructive. I use the chart below, from the NYCLU in classes because it provides a useful visual representation (image source is this report).StopFrisk

StopFrisk

Take a look at those numbers for young black men, between the ages of 14 and 24. The Talk might be necessary because there’s a very strong chance that a Black son will be stopped by the police. Indeed, in 2011, there were more stops of those young Black men than there were young Black men living in the City!

To acknowledge this fact, though, is…something, something…race-baiting?

The larger problem, though, is that this direct targeting of young Black men sets in motion a series of events that continue to reinforce patterns of racial inequality and domination. It’s not enough to live in under a constant state of harassment. One must deny that such a state even exists.

The simple fact that the parents of Black sons must have The Talk because the police will likely force an interaction must be denied.

To refuse that denial is to add another log to the flames of authoritarian white resentment.

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On NOT giving Xmas giftsI

We’re in the midst of the holiday season, and I’ve made my annual trip the folks’ place. Christmas in our family is a lot smaller than it used to be. Since my grandparents have all died, we spend much less time with relatives. Add to it that my sister and I are the only un-married folks in our cousin-cohort (and only one other from the group has no children), and we’re looking at smaller gatherings.

Good for us!

Actually, what I like about these smaller gatherings is the non-necessity of buying worthless nonsense for people you only see once a year. I’ve almost completely stopped buying gifts. My sister and I go in for something nice for our parents, my boyfriend and I say “Wanna buy each other dinner again?” and my sister and I trade donations.  It’s this last point I really want to talk about.

Many years ago, my sister and aunt approached one side of our family and said, “The silly $10 tools and socks we get each other are silly. Let’s exchange donations instead!” I think my mother and I were the only ones who said, “That’s a good idea!”  It took a few years, but that’s now the standard approach my sister and I have each other. We’ve basically got two rules though: It has to be something you think the other person would find meaningful, and it has to be something original each year.

I was reminded of these issues recently when I came across this video from a few years ago:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/q4a9CKgLprQ” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

I would welcome a War on Christmas if it meant fewer children like this.

I couldn’t help but think that their parents were part of a larger problem, albeit parents embedded within a pretty crappy system. The problem isn’t in giving gag gifts, but in building up expectations about material rewards. The commercialism of Christmas doesn’t make giving gifts to children pleasurable, it makes it a more pressure-filled expedition to find the exact thing that will fulfill the desires of your little demons…and if they don’t get it, there’s hell to pay.

I love not giving stupid fucking gifts. I love not dealing with assholes in the mall. (I worked retail for Christmas–yes, American consumer, you’re an asshole.) It means doing something a little better, helping a few folks who need it. It’s not massive, but it’s actually more fulfilling.

Who the fuck needs more plastic shit and whiny children? Not me. I love the loss of gift-giving that has occurred over the last decade or so. Instead, it’s time to eat and spend time with people I care about. That’s much more important than some worthless piece of crap that will be forgotten or broken in two days.

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A little traveling music

Time to hit the road for the Holidays. A bit of traveling music for the road:

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Another Semester in the Books

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The roots of our current malaise

Some finals week fun

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I feel like celebrating!

So, I won my election, and I will be the new Grievance Vice President for our union local. I’m very excited. In my younger days, that would have meant going out for a good time. Now, it means searching for fun YouTube songs and pretending I might be able to go out if my disco naps didn’t now start at noon.

Anyway, best disco song ever! Yes, it’s better than “I Will Survive,” even if saying so gets my gay card revoked.

OK. Back to grading in the morning. But, for now, DANCE, CHILDREN!

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