Priorities: A Snapshot


As much as people complain about the media, it is occasionally worth attending the self-inflicted wounds. To wit, Huffington Post readers:

"Trending" sidebar widget noting popular articles at the Huffington Post, 17 March 2017.• “Pro Wrestler Comes Out As Bisexual After Video With Boyfriend Hits The Web”

• “7 Signs Of A Nervous Breakdown”

• “7 Reasons Your Pee Smells Weird”

• “‘Girls’ Is Now Officially Unwatchable”

• “These Will Be The Best Places To Live In America In 2100 A.D.”

So, yeah. Trending. According to HuffPo’s metrics, this is what people are reading and promoting.

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Image note: “Trending” sidebar widget noting popular articles at the Huffington Post, 17 March 2017.

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Dear BuzzFeed: No


MEMORANDUM

To: BuzzFeed

re: Do you really need the explanation

23 Pictures That Really Need To Be Deleted From The Internet (BuzzFeed)I figure I am being pedantic. That must be it, right? I mean, it’s true that I occasionally mistake BuzzFeed for a news organization, mostly because whenever I encounter it someone purports to be telling me something about the news. It is, of course, my own fault for taking you seriously; thank you for correcting that erroneous notion.

No, seriously, as fatally ironic metahumor goes, I suppose someone, somewhere needed to try that one. And I do confess my curiosity as to just how many clicks that tease accrues. Still, though, I think the problem is that the only thing funny about it is the fact of someone wasting their time trying.

Were you hazing the intern? Taking bets on who could most embarrass their own mother for the fact of their own birth? (No, really, who won, and how?)

Still, though, God works in mysterious ways; you can always use that for an excuse.

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Image note: “23 Pictures That Really Need To Be Deleted From The Internet” ― Sidebar offering from Buzzfeed.com, 3 November 2016.

If It’s Tuesday I Must Be Whining


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya, 18 October 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

Microcosmic: As Rachel Maddow asks Michael Beschloss his opinion on campaign norms―e.g., releasing tax returns―it occurs to me that we are quite possibly witnessing a microiteration of a problematic thumbnail sketch: If achieved, then change standard.

As Maddow asked, what about the future? And that would approximately make sense: Hillary Clinton is about to be elected president of the United States of America. We’ve already decided that everything else in her career is just that much more volatile and alarming and inappropriate than any man who came before her, repeatedly suggesting with each iteration that we will, in fact, attempt to change the rules in order to forestall certain outcomes.

For instance, who remembers the One-Drop Rule? Was there nothing incongruous or untoward about the proposition that we finally laid the One-Drop Rule to rest when Barack Obama was elected? Okay, that’s not fair; we lynched the One-Drop Rule and then put the corpse in whiteface: If Barack Obama is one-drop white, we haven’t yet elected our first black president.

Remind me all you want that it didn’t work; I’ll just shrug and wonder why we bothered trying.

Still, though, if we call off the customary tax return release? It’s easy enough to expect the ritual to survive Donald Trump, but we’ve seen this happen before. No, really, did you know that politicians were never supposed to get paid for public speaking when they weren’t in office? Apparently this has always been the rule, and Hillary Clinton just wasn’t smart enough to know. And since her predecessors didn’t really use the private email systems that they actually did, Secretary Clinton should have known that behaving like her predecessors was forbidden; I mean, it’s not like we suddenly invented this standard that what she did was unacceptable out of thin air just because she’s Hillary freakin’ Clinton, right? It’s not like we didn’t care when it was anyone else and then just decide to care because some scandalmongering political opponents decided to pretend something entirely ahistorical and―you know, since it’s “Her”―well, yeah, why not, sounds great. Sorry, I guess that’s just a distraction, isn’t it? Because while we’re spinning pay for play fancies because transparency means we can, the only reason we don’t care about the idea of pay for play through Colin Powell’s foundation, while he was Secretary of State, is because he’s Colin Powell, not Hillary Clinton, so that sort of thing could never, ever happen.

Nor is it just about girls, though it’s true in this case it kind of is. But the underlying principle of schoolyard socialization dynamics includes a function whereby a bellwether among the despised might achieve a threshold of respectability, and the communal response is to alter the threshold in order to maintain exclusion. That is to say, some kids will simply never be allowed by their peers to be cool; it’s a general bully principle, because without it the list of people bullies are allowed to treat poorly pretty much crumbles to dust in the wind.

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Image note: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton works from a desk inside a C-17 military plane 18 October 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Press)

Maddow, Rachel. “Historic debate could reset campaign norms”. msnbc. 27 September 2016.

Ghosts in the Making


Summertime in Ferguson

When it was Trayvon Martin, I pitched a fit.

Michael Brown? Not so much.

It’s fair to ask why, and the answer is to simply look at what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri. The twenty-one thousand plus residents have seen their city torn to pieces, body and soul, as protesters and police battle over the murder of an unarmed black man by a city police officer whose record includes being fired as part of another small police department in Jennings, Missouri, that was disbanded by its city council for being so corrupt and generally awful. The town is in chaos; residents are intervening to slow the most vocal protesters, and are also reportedly attempting to prevent media from covering the events. Ferguson has become the latest incarnation of our nation’s sick heritage of deadly racism, emerged as a symbol of our dark slide toward militarized police, and found itself the butt of one of the worst jokes on the planet after a protester tweeted a comparison of the situation there to what is going on in Palestine, and instead of being indignant the Palestinians tweeted back with good-faith advice.

I first addressed the death of Trayvon Martin with friends on March 13, 2012, some weeks after the George Zimmerman stalked and pursued him for no good reason, shooting the seventeen year-old to death and then claiming self-defense. And when I first mentioned it, I did not expect what was coming. Certes, my gorge rose to learn the story, but like so many Americans the idea that an apparently murdered black man will die under the presumption that he needed to be shot just did not seem all that unusual. That is to say, like many I expected Trayvon Martin would become another forgotten lamb.

And, yes, I was wrong.

This time, the nation did not wait weeks. Before the name Michael Brown finished echoing after the first wave of press coverage the town was beseiged by chaos. Screaming and shouting from my evergreen corner of the country really doesn’t do me or anyone else any good.

And, yet, Justice still seems nearly destined for disappointing failure.

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On the Complexity of Making Things Complicated


Hillary Clinton

Sometimes the key to politics is to make things complicated not so much by making them actually complicated, but by complicating things with additional layers and steps. Political discourse is something like the living, realtime inspiration for internet chatter; after two or three quick rounds it’s hard to tell what anyone is referring to, anymore.

But at the same time, it is not as if the rhetorical devices of American politics are especially complex. Consider, for instance, Paul Krugman:

This policy unity has been helped by the fact that Obama has had a moderate degree of success in achieving these goals. If he had had an easy time, the party might be divided between those wanting more radical action and those not in a hurry; if he had failed utterly, the party might be divided (as it was for much of the past three decades) between a liberal faction and a Republican-lite faction. As it is, however, Obama has managed to achieve a lot of what Democrats have sought for generations, but only with great difficulty against scorched-earth opposition. This means that the conflict between “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” — exemplified these days by Elizabeth Warren — and the more pro-big-business wing is relatively muted: the liberal wing knows that Obama has gotten most of what could be gotten, and the actual policies haven’t been the kind that would scare off the less liberal wing.

One would think this easy piece of political perspective would not be so rare in our discourse, but for some reason—perhaps a tendency toward equivocation for the sake of narrative simplification—it sometimes seems useful to take a moment and think about how it comes about.

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Something, Something, Burt Ward


A legacy of acrimony between President Putin and the Muslim-dominated North Caucasus came to the fore last week when a female suicide bomber from that area blew herself up on a bus in Volgograd, killing six people. The town where she was from–only a day’s drive from Sochi–had been under counterterrorism surveillance for at least a year . . . .

Emma Margolin

It is not that one cannot be more specific, but, rather, the question of why one needs to Emma Margolin’s report for MSNBC verges on revolutionary language:

ScochiA legacy of acrimony between President Putin and the Muslim-dominated North Caucasus came to the fore last week when a female suicide bomber from that area blew herself up on a bus in Volgograd, killing six people. The town where she was from–only a day’s drive from Sochi–had been under counterterrorism surveillance for at least a year, according to Time magazine.

The bomber’s motives remain unclear, but she appears to have been aligned with an insurgency group whose aim has been to transform the region into an Islamic stronghold and expel Russian forces, whom they view as occupiers. Over the summer, the movement’s self-proclaimed Chechen leader released a video message calling for the use of “maximum force” ahead of the Winter Games.

The attack follows a bloody two months in which over 130 people have been killed in clashes between government forces and militants, sparking nationalist riots this month in southern Moscow. A majority of those deaths took place in Dagestan, where the Boston bombers lived before emigrating to the U.S.

As prime minister, Putin directed the second Chechen war. Over a decade later, those separatist powers remain strong. Experts have warned that last week’s suicide bombing could be the first in a chain of attacks against Russian targets.

Colbert-QUOTE-RealizeLiberalCertes, there are all manner of newsish biscuits and treats to be found in all that, but the narrative is what counts here. To the one, there is something about the liberal bias of reality. But, to the other, there is also the part about recognizing one’s liberal tendencies in making human choices instead of simply cheering the cause.

Something, something, Burt Ward.

This thing writes itself.

At least, I hope, since I can’t explain it otherwise.

There Must Be An Answer, Let It Be, Let It Be


Do It!And then there are the things we probably didn’t need to think about, but it’s America, so setting the obvious point aside, yes, there are scarier things in the world, and risk is choice, you know?

And, no, there is nothing about The Beatles that actually goes here. I just needed a title, and Macca mewling over Mother Mary happened to be the first thing to mind that didn’t involve the proverbial bleach and eyeballs.