The Age of Assholery

Smarter people than me have attempted to define just what is meant when you call someone an asshole. To me it’s not just single-minded self-centeredness and lack of consideration, it’s the pride that’s taken in it, the expectation, nay, demand that you be celebrated for your unswerving pursuit of whatever it is you want to be doing that day, that you and you alone embody perfect alignment of what you want and some Higher Purpose.

It’s not like assholes are anything new, of course, but it’s now, more than in centuries past, that they’re not just ascendant, but increasingly impossible to unseat, with new and more powerful tools to consolidate power or escape consequences. Everybody and everything has a constituency, and as long as you’re making them happy and they’re buttressing whatever you’re doing, no condemnation or punishment really deters you, it’s just the next talking point in the shouting match. It just proves you right and incites some idiot to do whatever the next awful thing they can justify to themselves is.

This is the sort of world where nobody is surprised by awfulness anymore, not really, not long enough to outlast the first day or so of tweets and wall-to-wall news coverage. Before long, some asshole who went and shot 23 kids has given the assholes who want to have guns all the time and everywhere momentum, not a death blow, because the assholes who want that shouted about it louder and better than the assholes like me who want to take everyone’s guns away.

The sort of world where assholes can go burn down a town of 2,000 people to make their point that their god is the best god because he considers barbarism preferable to girls learning math. And that nothing can be done about those assholes because that country exports too much oil, and that we sapped our will to do things like that ten years ago when we were assholes about going after someone who probably wasn’t the most important asshole out there.

It’s this destabilization, this feedback loop of assholery that’s most dispiriting about it. The evidence that the low road just fucking works better is sort of compelling. Spying on people with all means available and blowing them up with cheap killer robots is pretty darned great. Using the fuckload of money you already have to fix elections, then fix the laws so you can permanently be rich and permanently install like-minded assholes in government works really well.

And the engineer in me can’t argue with what works, with what the system clearly bears out. Money, guns, and ruthlessness win. They win every time and in so doing, they sow the seeds of domination. Money ensures that even after the trauma of the Great Recession, it’s but a handful of years before the reins are loosed on the people that caused it, because they have the money to buy permission to make gobs more instead of merely a lot more. The people with the guns and the willingness to point them at people get to seize a town in the name of their religion or whatever, because they’re enough of an asshole to be willing to express their disgruntlement in a way that makes it everyone else’s problem.

You could equally say that the problem is meekness. The meekness of liberals in general and Obama as an embodiment of it, to naively offer to hear both sides of the argument, to hang onto the expectation that the other side will argue in good faith and that both need consensus to declare victory. Assholes from the lunatics in Congress to the maniacs who shoot children (note that i do not make an equivalency between the expression of their assholery, only their common attitude towards anyone with a differing opinion, which is, in short, “fuck ’em”) walk all over us because we are not willing to buy enough congressmen to get universal pre-K, or coverage for pre-existing conditions, nor are we willing to shoot people for the right to have a boring day at a boring job in a small town and go to some church or mosque of our choosing. Our simple, reasonable needs are stakes that nobody’s willing to take prisoners over, figuratively or literally.

It’s no surprise, then, that people with unreasonable desires achieve them through unreasonable means, and then try to convince everybody it was otherwise after the fact.

So is that it? Sometimes it feels like it, like for every ebb and flow, the trend sure feels like they’re winning. That they have to win, and will evermore. Like global warming, sure there’s a cold winter or a 2008 here and there, but overall, things just keep getting hotter and you wake up one day to find committees on science populated entirely by people who are hostile to it.

Soon we’ll all be assholes.

The Punching-Bag In Chief

After the midterm elections, i can’t help but think that Barack Obama’s presidency has has turned into the end of The Dark Knight. We always figured he’d be our hero, the guy who was going to fix everything.

Maybe, to borrow the too-on-the-nose phrase from the movie, he’s the hero we need right now. Think about what he’s done, and then think about what he’s put up with.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that any Democrat was going to be vilified in this day and age in the face of the Republican scream machine. Perhaps it was inevitable that any black President was going to invite overt and subconscious racism, bile, the worst of us. Maybe the combination was too irresistible a target.

But we’ve never seen this before, have we? The man can do no right, it seems. In a world that’s never been grayer, every single thing he does is black, black, black. Every single thing, a bad idea done badly with bad intentions, and nothing short of it.

No wonder he looks like hell. Because no one told him he was signing up to be the punching bag, the target, the man to take the punishment. We believed in Harvey Dent, and we badly wish he could be him. So does he, one might assume. But he’s not. He woke up one day and found out he had to be Batman. At the end of the movie, i mean. Chewed by dogs, chased by cops, and vilified by the people he sacrificed everything to help.

It’s depressing for me to watch, but imagine how he feels. It’s a hell of a thing to live through all this abuse for the staggering achievement of things being less-worse, but who knows, maybe less-worse all we can hope for anymore.

To all the little people

While listening to the wide array of bad news this morning, i looked up at a 757 banking above me, a Delta plane. The airline where i have most of my frequent-flier miles, who nevertheless ‘fixed’ their frequent-flier program so the likes of me are unable to get status anymore. Fixed it so you have to spend a minimum amount of money, fixed it so the people in the suits don’t have to accidentally sit next to me in my frayed jeans in first class once every few years. Seems like it’s somewhat emblematic of what animates nights like last night.

Nights like last night are for those guys who walk up and buy first-class tickets, those guys in the black Escalades that run red lights and park wherever the fuck they want, the guys who have to decide what $50-entree restaurant to have dinner at each night.

Because the derangement of the modern Republican party is mostly attributable to those people. Oh, we can carp all you want about how denying science doesn’t make sense, how austerity doesn’t make sense when the economy needs a shot in the arm, how ignoring infrastructure doesn’t make sense, how starting wars doesn’t make sense. Because they do make sense, but only for those people in the front rows and the black cars. Ignoring climate change, declining to tax businesses, cheaping out on long-term investment, and finding uses for an expensive military all work out well for that tiny group of people.

It’s never going to make sense to me, because it doesn’t help me and feels like it’s just some haphazard collection of bad policy. It’s not like none of us know this narrative, it’s not like i’m saying anything that’s unrevealed, but we forget about it; with every new dramatic twist in each thread of the story, we forget about the overarching plotline. It’s not a conspiracy against public transit, or science, or the environment, or people on welfare, or women and minorities, it’s a conspiracy for rich old white men.

The real innovation is that they’ve managed to package it up (garnished with some social conservatism for those of you who are still into that) and feed it to enough of America as if it’s something that does any of us some good. And it’s hugely successful. Government is (incompetent | evil), the oceans aren’t rising, war comes with no costs, and if the guy in the suit got rich, so can you.

In all the victory speeches, remember that not a word of it, not a single falling balloon or fluttering bit of confetti, none of it’s for us.

Some photos, in minimal context:

One thing to celebrate

The white-hot glare

i Am Waiting For Your Apology

You heard me, Charlie Baker. Before i would even consider voting for you, absent my disagreement with your assertion that things here in Massachusetts need so much fixing and that ‘one-party-rule’ has been so terrible for us. Oh no, the probation department! Throw all the bums out! And replace them with bums who are dedicated to the elimination of departments instead.

Where was i?

Even if i didn’t hate the mistaken and cynical things that you stand for (not to mention your cynical campaign), Charlie Baker, i need you to apologize just for being a Republican.

That’s right, dammit, the R beside your name is enough for me to dismiss you outright. Not because i’m wedded to the Democrats, remember i’m rather left of them. No, it’s because the Party of Lincoln is ruined for a generation. Ruined by people who are not you, to be sure, but don’t you owe better to the people of Massachusetts? If you really think that your ideas are better, give them a chance to win by disavowing what’s left of that party.

Because by not doing so (and by taking their money and support), that tells me that you’re okay with the stupidity of George W. Bush, the recklessness of Ted Cruz, the ignorance of Todd Akin, the shrill partisanship of Darrell Issa, the stubborn mendacity of Mitch McConnell. People who have done nothing short of breaking our government.

While i disagree with you, and think you’re wrong for the job, i don’t lump you in with them. But you do.

Who’s going to be the first reasonable conservative to demand better of his party? Obviously, i won’t vote for him, either, but at least i’d respect him.

But until then, all Republicans can fuck directly off.

An Unholy Alliance

When you sit there and watch Mitt Romney’s contortions, you’re instantly reminded of how many different ways he’s had to stretch to obtain and maintain the support he has.  The strain on the machine is immediately evident; you can hear it grind and squeal and creak under the stress.  The only question is, does it spin out of control and tear itself apart now or later?  Eventually, the Republican party as we know it is doomed.  There are just not enough of these parts to keep putting it back together.

So it’s instructive to think about all the awful things that Mitt Romney’s candidacy is made out of.

  • Herald readers.  Back in the day, these are the people who put him on Beacon Hill.  People who’ve become convinced that 90¢ on every government dollar is intrinsically wasted, gone to the type of people that Fox 25 runs exposés on, that corruption is the rule, not the exception, that it’s all somehow Larry Lucchino’s fault.
  • Small government nutbags.  Like the crazy lady who wanted to arbitrarily cut the Massachusetts income tax in half two years ago.  They’re not happy with Mittens, but they’ll be voting for him too.  These people at least have an ethos, an internally consistent worldview, even if they seek it out in irresponsible ways, such as hitching their wagon to a guy who might be less qualified as a help to their cause than the Democrat.  At any rate, Mitt Romney would be a rubber stamp to the worst of these elements in Congress, the people that will strip-mine our country’s most successful, most bedrock services and declare them better done by the private sector.  Or at least more profitably done.
  • Greedy people.  The “I got mine, everybody else can go screw” crowd.  People who cling to every last cent, spiting every school, every bridge, every park.  People who can’t make the connection between things that are immediately good for them, and the good (and i mean financial good, not touchy-feely good) that comes to every last one of us from helping everybody.
  • End-of-the-world loons.  Let’s not forget that Bush himself was said to believe in the idea that war in the Middle East, specifically in Israel wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  In fact it was a good thing, something that meant the Second Coming was at hand.  Romney’s saber-rattling in the direction of Iran (tempered or not, last night) wins these peoples’ vote.
  • Normal religious people.  Even though i couldn’t disagree more with them, honest, decent people believe enough in their religion that they will vote for people who they think will drive that into everyone else’s lives.  Me, i think this is revolting, but these people are well-intentioned, and will vote for Mittens overwhelmingly (even if they think his is the wrong Jesus).
  • Crazy religious people.  Here, i’m talking about the cavemen-and-dinosaurs crowd, the ones who write textbooks in Texas and speak in tongues and heal people with their sportcoats.  These people will vote for Mitt Romney.
  • Racists.  Everyone from proud Klansmen to my dumbass grandfather who forwards emails with .gifs of Obama as a monkey.  You could say that this isn’t Romney’s fault, and certainly he has plausible deniability, just as every Republican has for the last fifteen years.  But that deniability is achieved through the oft-mentioned racist ‘code words‘.  Words like ‘welfare’, which i think we’ve heard a bit, which make nice suburbanite white folks think of inner-city Americans who make them nervous and say, “well, I’m not for that” without admitting to themselves why.  These aren’t even mostly bad people, but the key here is that Republicans and Romney are appealing to our worst angels, sides of us that we’d embarrassed to face up to.
  • Warmongers.  The military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about.  They did well when we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and want us to keep that up.  To buy ships we don’t need and planes that don’t work.  These people will vote for Mitt Romney.
  • Rich People.  The assholes who create nothing but money for themselves and try to tell us all it is a virtue unto itself even as they crashed our entire damn country.  People who can pay legions of accountants and lawyers and lobbyists (they’re job creators, duh!), because the taxes these people help them escape more than pay for themselves.  Mitt Romney will help these people keep what they have and give as little as possible back to the country that enables them to be so successful.  Mitt Romney isn’t just their enabler, he is one of them, through and through.

Fortunately, we’re breeding out some of these people.  We won’t have the money for a mega-military forever.  Racists will die off.  Younger people are less and less religious.  The window for a Republican coalition of assholes and idiots is closing, and i desperately hope it closes now.

If you’re on the fence, ask yourself if you want to be counted with these people.

Cheering for laundry

The other day, i had to have an honest conversation with myself.  A conversation about how to justify my laughter at Derek Jeter’s season-ending injury.  It’s customary to admit that it’s wrong, 100% wrong to cheer for opposing players’ injury, but i think that most of us  here did not have that reaction at first.  Laughing at the Yankees was wrong, distasteful, childish… but honest.

Thing is, i don’t think any of us wish the person harm.  Baseball players are held to a high standard of civic responsibility by virtue of being on TV every day for six months, and by all accounts he meets and exceeds this.  The difference is the uniform.  In the pinstripes, he becomes that smug fuck with no range and a closet full of Gold Gloves who’s never taken a called strike.  A hated enemy.  So i laughed at the player’s injury, and ultimately, i’m fine with that.

But i find an interesting parallel with the reaction to the monthly report of the unemployment numbers, in particular this most recent one.  Goodness knows, i’ve anxiously hoped they’d be good.  Not because they exactly affect me (heck, recently i suppose i just made them worse by one), but because good numbers are good for the person i want to be the next President.  But the crucial question is, if the reverse were true, if i were pulling to unseat the guy, would i then be cheering for bad things to happen?

It’s fairly clear that plenty of us in this country are doing just that.  Yet another obvious manifestation of Mitch McConnell’s repugnant rallying cry.  Of all the disheartening things that have happened to this country in the last twelve years, it’s possibly the worst.  At best, an open admission that the opposition party wants the government to fail utterly, at worst, a brazen exhortation to partisans to impede anything which might reflect well on the administration.  And no matter how cynical and how partisan you are, there’s strong correlation that runs in opposition to that idea—a successful president must by definition be bringing some of that success to the citizens of the country.  Therefore, Republicans are cheering against us all.

So if fewer people are unemployed, they’re disappointed (or sadder still, in denial).  Because they’ve tried so hard to eliminate public jobs that might’ve helped that number, but also put money in the hands of middle-class pockets, who might’ve spent it and helped other Americans make a living. Wouldn’t want to help that along.

It’s laundry.  For four years, Republicans’ loyalty has been to laundry alone.  Red versus Blue.  Awkwardly, my metaphor means that i am exactly the person i started out mocking.  Indeed, we’re all (gulp) Derek Jeter, lying on the field.  Except, to continue abusing the metaphor, the Republicans aren’t the cackling Sox fan at home on the couch.  They’re more like the maniac that ran on the field and kneecapped him with a tire iron at shortstop.

And i don’t think any part of me would be cheering for that.

Replying to My Grandpa, No. 1

In the hopes that this prevents me from sending it to my grandfather, here’s what i’ve written in reply to his latest tea-drenched (but racist-flavored) email forward.  Here’s hoping the flavoring comes from the originator.

Here we go.  Names omitted to protect them from themselves:

Dear Grandpa,

I’ve received a lot of emails from you over the last couple years, and I am always, always tempted to reply.  Maybe today’s the day I send it.

I took the liberty of replacing your term “FREE STUFF” with “INVESTMENT CAPITAL”.  The argument still doesn’t hold water, but it’s closer.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes, said, “I like paying taxes.  With them I buy civilization.”

I consider the “FREE STUFF” you refer to an investment, to oversimplify.  Consider the recent controversy here in Massachusetts that the Boston Herald so gleefully reported.

Basically, welfare recipients were able to use their electronic benefit cards to buy lots of stuff they probably didn’t need.  And do you know what?  I don’t care.  As a taxpayer, I don’t care.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re improving it, but it is a good example to illustrate my priorities.  Bear with me.

I don’t care if 19 out of 20 people receiving so-called FREE STUFF is a waste of our effort.  It’s that 20th that matters.  If that 20th person goes on to be a good subway driver, or a manager of a McDonald’s, or a good schoolteacher, then it’s worth it.  Maybe that 20th person’s a waste of oxygen, but has a kid who grows up to be a good engineer.  It doesn’t even matter.  We’re playing a long game here.  That 1 out of 20 makes it worthwhile at any price.

You can call it naive, you can call it wasteful.  I call it investment.  It’s flawed investment, flawed generosity, but what isn’t flawed in this world.  The other choice is to not invest, to make a virtue of selfishness and put our faith solely in fortuitously intersecting selfishnesses, or as some would prefer to call it, ‘the free market’.

Obama: Until there’s evidence to the contrary, he’s too good a man for the job.

Borders: Everyone’s able to make this country better.  Many are willing and we should be pleased to welcome them.

Language: Do you have any idea how much of Europe speaks English now?  Because it’s useful.  So is Spanish in lots of parts of this country.  So be it.

Culture: Evolves every single day and those who attempt to stop it will just get tired.

Drug Free: See my previous point.  I don’t care and it’s not worth our trouble to find out, unless it’s to get them help.

From the Hub of the whole damn Universe in the the socialist workers’ paradise of Massachusetts,

-rob

 

P.S. I fervently hope that I shouldn’t be reading anything into the animated monkey image attached.


On May 23, 2012, at 4:51 PM, MY IGNORANT-ASS GRANDFATHER wrote:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Teabaggy McTeabagger <tcot@galtsgulch.xxx>
Date: Wed, May 23, 2012 at 10:04 AM
Subject: investment capital
To:

I AM FORWARDING THIS EMAIL THAT I RECEIVED TODAY TO A FEW OF THE “THINKERS” IN MY ADDRESS BOOK.   IT REFLECTS THE FEELINGS OF A LOT OF PEOPLE.

I have never heard this said as simply or as well.   Class war at its best.

The folks who are getting the INVESTMENT CAPITAL don’t like the folks who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL, because the folks who                    are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL can no longer afford to pay for both the INVESTMENT CAPITAL and their own stuff.

And, the folks who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL want the INVESTMENT CAPITAL to stop.

And the folks who are getting the INVESTMENT CAPITAL want even more INVESTMENT CAPITAL on top of the INVESTMENT CAPITAL they are already getting!

Now… the people who are forcing the people who pay for the investment capital have told the people who are RECEIVING the INVESTMENT CAPITAL that the people who are PAYING for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL are being mean, prejudiced, and racist.

So… the people who are GETTING the INVESTMENT CAPITAL have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL by the people who are forcing some people to pay for their investment capital and giving them the INVESTMENT CAPITAL in the first place.

We have let the INVESTMENT CAPITAL giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting INVESTMENT CAPITAL than paying for the investment capital.

Now understand this.   All great democracies have committed financial suicide somewhere between 200 and 250 years after being founded.   The reason?

The voters figured out they could vote themselves money from the treasury by electing people who promised to give them money from the treasury in exchange for electing them.

The United States officially became a Republic in 1776, 236 years ago.   The number of people now getting INVESTMENT CAPITAL outnumbers the people paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL.   We have one chance to change that in 2012. Failure to change that spells the end of the United States as we know it, especially if the present administration gets it way and gives illegals aliens the right to vote.

If you don’t believe this can happen look at Greece and the election that just took place in France.  Now France is a Socialist Country with                    a 75% tax rate on those that PAY for INVESTMENT CAPITAL .

ELECTION 2012 IS COMING

A Nation of Sheep Breeds a Government of Wolves!

I’M 100% for PASSING THIS ON !!!
For all our sake PLEASE Take a Stand!!!

Obama: Gone!

Borders: Closed!

Language: English only

Culture: Constitution, and the Bill of Rights!

Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before Welfare!

NO freebies to: Non-Citizens!

<ATT00025.gif>

There’s so much more to say, of course, so tempting to use this same metaphor to point out how many of the folks he thinks are so giving of FREE STUFF are not only not paying for it, but receiving it.  But i’ll content myself with having not hit the Send button.

Or did i?