Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Fifty Shades of Eggs and Ham"

I do not like this big ball gag
I do not like my head in bag
I do not like your big bull whip
I do not like this clamp on nip
I do not like this, Grey, I say!
(But please keep doing it anyway)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Favorite 2015 Super Bowl Commericals

My top twenty favorites, in order:

#1: The FIAT 500 "little blue pill":

#2: Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel on "the internet" (and the BMW i3):

#3: Liam Neeson and Clash of Clans:

#4: Coca-Cola making the internet a happy place:

#5: The year's most controversial ad: Nationwide kills a hypothetical kid:
(Lots of parents got their panties in a twist about it; I LOL'd)

#6: Another dark-but-amusing ad, about heroine:
(This was a local ad, Missouri only)

#7: Snickers: "The Brady Bunch"

#8: I loved this one, mostly because babies on an airplane are pretty much the worst thing ever:


#10: Microsoft succeeds in being endearing (twice!):

#11: The "first-ever draft":

#12: Pierce Brosnan, action star:

#13: Toyota Camrys ("Camries"?) might not be even remotely interesting, but this ad is:

#14: Minions are always hilarious:

#15: The Tortise and the Hare and the Mercedes-Benz:

#16: McDonald's "Pay with Lovin' ":

#17: "Together We Make Football" (IDGAF about football, but I still liked the ad):

#18: Dodge's "Wisdom from Centenarians":

#19: The TurboTax Tea Party:
(The historical Tea Party, not the 'angry redneck morons' Tea Party)

#20: A clever, albeit deadly-serious ad about domestic violence:
(The phone call used is real, it actually happened)

And finally: the arguments about gender that everyone seems to be having lately managed to seep their way into Super Bowl ads, too.

The first is a troll, designed to make men and boys look like assholes by baiting them into exaggerated charicatures of doing things "like a girl", followed by girls doing those things "normally":

Does anyone really think that the girls wouldn't do exaggerated charicatures too, if they were told to do things "like a boy"?

As for the "Sorry, it's a boy" ad, Sarah Silverman can kindly go fuck herself :D

Meanwhile, these two ads about fathers actually try to make the (shocking! outrageous! misogynistic! patriarchal!) statement that men can actually be, you know, caring and decent human beings with feelings:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Defending Liberalism From the Thought Police

Image Credit: New York Magazine

On January 26th, New York Magazine published an epic and brilliant essay by liberal writer Jonathan Chait, titled "Not a Very P.C. Thing To Say: How the language police are perverting liberalism".

It's a smart, scorching counter-punch to the type of liberalism I find absolutely repugnant: the kind marked by extreme political correctness, feminism indistinguishable from misandry, and identity politics that push automatic victimhood for anyone who isn't a straight white male.

It should go without saying at this point, but I, like any sane human being, find the conservative stances on all these issues about gender and whatnot to be even more absurd and asinine than that (gays as an "affront" to straights, men having it "worse" than women overall, etc). But I'm not writing this about how massively (and obviously) sexist, racist, homophobic, entitled, idiotic, and whiny the American right wing is - I'm writing it because I support a completely level playing field for everyone, regardless of gender/race/etc, and I think trying to get there through left-wing bullying and censorship is both terribly ugly and counter-productive.

Chait gives several examples of just how bad the feminist left's hair-trigger thought-policing impulses have become:
At a growing number of campuses, professors now attach “trigger warnings” to texts that may upset students, and there is a campaign to eradicate “microaggressions,” or small social slights that might cause searing trauma. These newly fashionable terms merely repackage a central tenet of the first p.c. movement: that people should be expected to treat even faintly unpleasant ideas or behaviors as full-scale offenses. Stanford recently canceled a performance of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson after protests by Native American students. UCLA students staged a sit-in to protest microaggressions such as when a professor corrected a student’s decision to spell the word indigenous with an uppercase I — one example of many “perceived grammatical choices that in actuality reflect ideologies.” A theater group at Mount Holyoke College recently announced it would no longer put on The Vagina Monologues in part because the material excludes women without vaginas. These sorts of episodes now hardly even qualify as exceptional.

In a short period of time, the p.c. movement has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular. “All over social media, there dwell armies of unpaid but widely read commentators, ready to launch hashtag campaigns and circulate Change.org petitions in response to the slightest of identity-politics missteps,” Rebecca Traister wrote recently in The New Republic.
But the most egregious example he gives:
Last March at University of ­California–Santa Barbara, in, ironically, a “free-speech zone,” a 16-year-old anti-abortion protester named Thrin Short and her 21-year-old sister Joan displayed a sign arrayed with graphic images of aborted fetuses. They caught the attention of Mireille Miller-Young, a professor of feminist studies. Miller-Young, angered by the sign, demanded that they take it down. When they refused, Miller-Young snatched the sign, took it back to her office to destroy it, and shoved one of the Short sisters on the way.

Speaking to police after the altercation, Miller-Young told them that the images of the fetuses had “triggered” her and violated her “personal right to go to work and not be in harm.” A Facebook group called “UCSB Microaggressions” declared themselves “in solidarity” with Miller-Young and urged the campus “to provide as much support as possible.” By the prevailing standards of the American criminal-justice system, Miller-Young had engaged in vandalism, battery, and robbery. By the logic of the p.c. movement, she was the victim of a trigger and had acted in the righteous cause of social justice.
Chait also points out one of the feminist left's nastiest habits: discounting criticisms of their ideas solely on the basis of the criticizer's race and/or gender. He also explains the terminology they've come up with to try to justify their actions:
Under p.c. culture, the same idea can be expressed identically by two people but received differently depending on the race and sex of the individuals doing the expressing. This has led to elaborate norms and terminology within certain communities on the left. For instance, “mansplaining,” a concept popularized in 2008 by Rebecca Solnit, who described the tendency of men to patronizingly hold forth to women on subjects the woman knows better — in Solnit’s case, the man in question mansplained her own book to her. The fast popularization of the term speaks to how exasperating the phenomenon can be, and mansplaining has, at times, proved useful in identifying discrimination embedded in everyday rudeness. But it has now grown into an all-purpose term of abuse that can be used to discredit any argument by any man. (MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry once disdainfully called White House press secretary Jay Carney’s defense of the relative pay of men and women in the administration “man­splaining,” even though the question he responded to was posed by a male.) Mansplaining has since given rise to “whitesplaining” and “straightsplaining.”

If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous.
What is, essentially, his underlying and fundamentally liberal thesis:
But political correctness is not a rigorous commitment to social equality so much as a system of left-wing ideological repression. Not only is it not a form of liberalism; it is antithetical to liberalism. Indeed, its most frequent victims turn out to be liberals themselves.
I can attest to this, considering how many of my feminist friends long ago lumped me in with TEH PATRIARCHYYYY and labeled me "PART OF THE PROBLEM".

As if on cue, the Kool Kidz™ over at Gawker/Jezebel started shitting their pants about Chait's essay. The title of their depressingly predictable rebuttal?
"Punch-Drunk Jonathan Chait Takes On the Entire Internet"
THE ENTIRE INTERNET. Not a relatively small group of radically-left-wing ultra-P.C. neo-feminists, but THE ENTIRE INTERNET.

If the fourth paragraph doesn't convince you that the writing staff at Gawker/Jezebel is comprised entirely of pissed-off sixteen-year-old girls, nothing will:
A year ago, Jonathan Chait had an extended debate with The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates, an incredibly talented writer whose ongoing research and thinking on race and American politics and history have led him to become one of our foremost critics of American liberalism as a credo and philosophy. Chait, a strong believer in the righteousness of American liberalism, could not let it go, and he went on to embarrass himself. A broken Chait is now taking on the entire goddamn Internet, to prove that he's still the important political thinker — and good liberal — he knows he is.
(Later in the essay, Gawker solidifies its maturity credentials by calling Chait's essay "...the whinings of a petulant man-baby".)

Gawker's essay criticizes Chait for pointing out that websites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy make huge sums of money by pushing the pro-P.C. narratives by pointing out that Chait (probably) makes even more money than they do. It continues:
In fact, that's true of nearly everyone who is presented as a victim of political correctness in Chait's essay, from millionaire comedian Bill Maher to the anonymous professor at a prestigious university: They all enjoy superior social status to the people who are supposedly silencing or terrifying them. It's hard to see how democracy was significantly harmed by Condoleezza Rice not giving a commencement address.
First, that's beside the point. The harm done to democracy is in people shutting down debate and engagement on subjective matters. This is not the same as kicking creationists out of science classrooms. There actually is a discussion that deserves to be had here, as this whole dialogue demonstrates.

Second, they're not only attacking people with money - they do this to literally anyone who sets off their hair-trigger "patriarchy alarms". Just look at their reaction to this scientist working on the Rosetta project, just because of his shirt (which was given to him by his girlfriend).

Sidenote: as an example of what I mean by their "hair trigger patriarchy alarms", during the writing of this blog post, one of my more radical feminist friends posted on Facebook with a status criticizing other radical feminists in her graduate class for claiming that the use of word "female" as a noun instead of an adjective was condescending and sexist. I am NOT making this up.

But here's the most spit-take-inducing part of Gawker's rebuttal (brace yourself for the impending lack of irony):
These are fundamental attacks on Chait's identity by people he cannot merely dismiss as cranks. Lashing out is only natural. When men like Chait are exposed to criticism of this nature for the first time, they generally respond with operatic self-pity. And then we get a column or an essay or a book about how people who criticize straight white men are Actually The Problem.

Chait is understandably upset that the left is playing dirty by impugning his view of himself as a good, tolerant liberal, on the side of justice. No one wants to hear that the place that they worked for many years was actively fighting for white supremacy! But it's fun to imagine Chait responding to the equivalent of this piece written by a conservative, about liberals. Chait understands the absurdity of the conservative position that to be accused of racism is worse than racism itself. He accurately notes that when conservatives bemoan "political correctness" they are generally upset that they have been asked to be respectful of people of different backgrounds. He simply cannot take that next step, and admit that perhaps his own concern about the proliferation of dangerous anti-speech Marxists and Social Justice Warriors is actually misplaced anxiety about his getting called on his shit.
O__O  .....  >__<  .....  O__O

Exposed to criticism for the first time! Operatic self-pity! Impugning his view of himself as a good, tolerant liberal on the side of justice! Misplaced anxiety about getting called on his shit!

Is it even possible for the Gawker/Jezebel Kool Kidz™ to piss into the wind any more than this?

Chait knew that this would be their reaction, by including in his essay:
I am white and male, a fact that is certainly worth bearing in mind. I was also a student at the University of Michigan during the Jacobsen incident, and was attacked for writing an article for the campus paper defending the exhibit. If you consider this background and demographic information the very essence of my point of view, then there’s not much point in reading any further. But this pointlessness is exactly the point: Political correctness makes debate irrelevant and frequently impossible.
I first found Chait's essay by reading Andrew Sullivan's blog about it. Sully's reaction was the same as mine:
To say I stood up and cheered as I finished reading Jon Chait’s new essay on the resurgence of a toxic political correctness on the left would be an understatement. There’s some great reporting in it that really helps put into context what the new guardians of the identity politics left are up to.
He gives context to just how counter-productive and self-victimizing this type of illiberal neo-feminism is:
If you want to argue that no social progress can come without coercion or suppression of free speech, you have to deal with the empirical fact that old-fashioned liberalism brought gay equality to America far, far faster than identity politics leftism. It was liberalism – not leftism – that gave us this breakthrough. And when Alabama is on the verge of issuing marriage licenses to its citizens, it is the kind of breakthrough that is rightly deemed historic. But instead of absorbing that fact and being proud of it and seeking magnanimity and wondering if other social justice movements might learn from this astonishing success for liberalism and social progress, some on the gay left see only further struggle against an eternally repressive heterosexist regime, demanding more and more sensitivity for slighter and slighter transgressions and actually getting more radicalized – and feeling more victimized and aggrieved – in the process.
And summarizes Chait's essay:
Chait has a great dissection of what Michelle Goldberg has also observed among some contemporary feminists – an acrid, self-defeating, demoralizing and emotionally crippling form of internecine warfare that persuades no one outside the ever tightening circle of true believers.
I'll give the last word (er, well, the pre-summary last word) to Chait himself:
The p.c. style of politics has one serious, possibly fatal drawback: It is exhausting. Claims of victimhood that are useful within the left-wing subculture may alienate much of America. The movement’s dour puritanism can move people to outrage, but it may prove ill suited to the hopeful mood required of mass politics. Nor does it bode well for the movement’s longevity that many of its allies are worn out. “It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing,” confessed the progressive writer Freddie deBoer. “There are so many ways to step on a land mine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks.” Goldberg wrote recently about people “who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in [online feminism] — not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists.” Former Feministing editor Samhita Mukhopadhyay told her, “Everyone is so scared to speak right now.”
As for myself, I'm extremely happy this discussion is taking place. We have far more important battles to fight than petty crap political correctness. I'm fairly certain that plutocracy and global warming are far greater threats to society than "manspreading" is.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Andrew Sullivan, my all-time favorite writer, is retiring soon :'(

He announced last week that he'll be giving up blogging in the coming weeks.

On wealth inequality:

On Baby Boomers and Millennials:

On gun control:

Virtually no one has had more influence on my way of thinking than he has. For Sullivan, finding the truth about a given issue was always more important than just agreeing with your default side, as well as more important than trying to be blindly divided between both sides equally. That's why the slogan for his blog, The Dish, is "Biased & Balanced" - partly as a joke against Fox News, and partly because the goal is to give both sides a fair shake, but to deliberately be biased in favor of the truth, rather than just trying to be in the middle.

Sully's blog was also the polar opposite of people like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and Al Sharpton - his writings showed very little ego, because it was never just about him: he had a team of close-knit people who built the blog together, as well as a community of readers who all lent their voices to the discussion as well. Sully knew he wasn't the expert on most topics - he just made sure to synthesize his opinions from people who are experts. That's one of many aspects of his work that I try very hard to emulate.

Photo credit to Intelligent Life magazine.

Sullivan is a gay, HIV-positive, Catholic Brit - and he's always considered himself a conservative (just check his Wiki page!). I always get a kick out of breaking people's brains by telling them that my all-time favorite writer is a conservative. But he's conservative in the British sense - in other words, a Tory. But in Great Britain (as well as most of the developed world), their conservatives are actually much closer to America's Democratic Party than the Republican Party - most people in America are ignorant of the fact that that Democrats are actually squarely in the center of the political spectrum, and that the "far left" that Fox News constantly warns us about actually has very little voice in American politics at all. In other words, Andrew Sullivan is the type of conservative who understands the reality that modern American conservatives are completely fucking batshit insane extremists. He doesn't pretend that they aren't, and neither do I.

But he evolved to that position over time. Another thing that makes him so special is that he's more than willing to admit when he's wrong. The most obvious example: Sullivan was originally a huge supporter for the war in Iraq. He was originally on the team that considered anti-war liberals to be pro-appeasement cowards, largely because he was swept up in post-9/11 jingoism and bloodlust. But as the facts about the stupidity of America's involvement in Iraq were brought into light, Sully didn't do the Republican thing and just pretend those facts didn't exist - he actually listened. He evolved. He had the humility to admit that he got it massively wrong, and became an ardent member of the war's opposition, and has remained opposed to impulsive knee-jerk military action to this day. He even wrote a book chronicling his evolution:

The magazine Intelligent Life wrote a long profile of him back in 2009, titled "Andrew Sullivan: Thinking. Out. Loud. Here are some excerpts:
He made his name by founding the Pooh-Sticks Society, a group dedicated to A.A. Milne’s game where you toss sticks in a river to see which floats past fastest. It became a monster: he says the group swelled to a thousand members, and crowds of hundreds would stop the traffic on Magdalen Bridge to play Pooh sticks.
Sounds intense. About how his evolution away from neoconservatism began:
Having voted for George Bush in 2000, he now became one of his most militant supporters, urging him to invade not just Afghanistan but Iraq, in charged and extreme language. His blog posts from that time are quite startling to read now—more expressions of rage and grief than political analysis. After the anthrax attacks on Capitol Hill, he immediately attributed them to jihadis and even mooted the need for America to launch a nuclear or biological response. He then savaged the “decadent left enclaves on the coast”, saying they “may well mount a fifth column” within the United States. This was applauded by Republicans, but the liberal columnist Eric Alterman spoke for many when he called him “a one-man House Un-American Activities Committee”.

Sullivan now believes this was the only period in his life when he departed from his Oakeshottian stance: “I was terribly wrong. In the shock and trauma of 9/11, I forgot the principles of scepticism and doubt towards utopian schemes that I had learned.” He was jolted back to “sanity”, he says, by the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.  He had always seen torture as the negation of American values—and was stunned that this man he had cheered on was authorising it. He began to pore over the emerging evidence. It led him to a radical reappraisal of Bush—and into a confrontation with the Republican right that mirrored his earlier fight with the gay left.
God bless, figuratively speaking, the people who know groupthink when they see it.
Sullivan’s scepticism, by contrast, has been lop-sided. He is highly sceptical of the capacity of governments to act, but he has often presented markets as close to infallible, if left undistorted by government action.

This belief has been at the core of the left-wing writer Naomi Klein’s criticisms of Sullivan. She says: “Where is this ideal capitalism of which [he] speaks? It reminds me of people on the very far left who, where when you present them with evidence of the real-world application of their ideology, say, ‘That doesn’t count, that was a distortion.’ Well, where’s the real version?”

When I ask Sullivan about this, he says: “It’s very hard to be a consistent Oakeshottian, to not let dogmas creep in. Perhaps my belief in markets has become like that. Over the next few years, in my blog and writing, I’m going to be thinking this through.” It seems he can imagine reasoning himself to a more Obama-friendly pro-intervention viewpoint—surely provoking yet more cries of betrayal from conservatives.
I feel I should point out here that his view on the free market has, indeed, evolved since this essay was written: because of underlying statistical realities, Sullivan now, essentially, sees the unregulated free market as being incapable of handling many specific aspects of what society needs, such as health care.

On the type of Christian Andrew is:
He says his next battle is to “turn Christianity against the fundamentalists”. For him, “their certainty is the real blasphemy; their desire to control the lives of others the real heresy; their simple depiction of the Godhead proof positive they do not really understand him.” In the Gospels, the men who set themselves up as arbiters of moral correctness are often the furthest from God, he says, while Jesus urges people to see beyond fetishising rules and commandments to their own conscience. This is the flag Sullivan will carry into battle as a paladin against the Palins.
This is the type of thing we desperately need.
Even when he is wrong, it is invigorating to watch, and proof that heat does generate light. I suspect Andrew Sullivan will be wearing his defiant badge of difference to the end.
The more willing you are to admit when you're wrong, the more likely you are to be right.

Photo credit to Intelligent Life magazine.

Hell, even the design of my blog has certain cues taken from his, and its elegant simplicity. Apparently he is currently discussing with his team the possibility of his blog continuing on without him, and considering the immense talent of his writing staff, I desperately hope this is true. The Dish is my single most-read website, by a very wide margin - for a brief period a couple years ago, I had to give it up, because it was producing far more things that I wanted to read than I had time to read them. But it's like crack, if crack gave you countless new, enlightened perspectives on hundreds of different topics, ranging from religion and politics to marijuana and sex to pop music and facial hair styles. If The Huffington Post is a news aggregator that leans to the left, The Dish is a opinion aggregator that leans to the hyper-intelligent.

I can admit I'd be somewhat lost without it. I <3 Andrew Sullivan.