Michael Maiello's picture

    The Starship Troopers Phase of Trumpism

    In 1997, Paul Verhoeven took a militaristic Robert A. Heinlein novel and satirized it as a movie.  When it came out, a lot of the audience missed the joke. Since then, a cult following has brought people along and now everybody gets it.  A big part of the Starship Troopers joke is society's compulsion towards military service. Mankind has branched out into the stars and found wars to fight. In order to preserve an all-volunteer military while compelling people to enlist, the "Terran Federation" has come up with a new form of governance:

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Amongst Its Diverse Weaponry Are...

    “A powerful social media network that, with no physical presence, allows it to spew propaganda, claim responsibility for terrorist attacks, and not just inspire attacks but also help plot and execute them remotely.”

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    Prayer for Atheists & the Culture Wars

    I was thinking of Doc's comment about how prayer is different from meditation, and as the left becomes largely secularized and often atheistic, this difference can have knock-on effects.

    Meditation is more like the hollow bamboo tube - the taking what the universe offers. American ethos isn't like that - we're a demanding bunch, with a "don't tell me what to do mentality". Submissiveness doesn't play well in the heartland.

    Danny Cardwell's picture

    The Insanity Of Gun Violence

    Every few weeks our lives are interrupted by breaking news about innocent people being gunned down in classrooms, movie theaters, night clubs, churches and most recently an outdoor concert. During these highly stressful times, we stop what we are doing to reflect on the preciousness and fragility of life, we offer our prayers and condolences to the families affected by the tragedy and we tell ourselves this isn’t America. We recite this claim with the convictions people give to their religious mantras.

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    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    What Is Praying?

    I have been too angry to write about the mass murder in Las Vegas, and too angry to write about the empty and reflexive offerings of "thoughts and prayers" that now follow every murder like it. But let me take this opportunity to talk about the question of what prayers are, and how they might be different from thoughts. America's general enthusiasm for religion masks deep, sometimes nearly bottomless religious differences, and so many, many people talk about praying, but use that word to mean very different things: sometimes contradictory things. What is praying, anyway?

    Homage to Catalonia: the Conspiracy Factory

    This week we were met with scenes of police removing protesters in Barcelona, with outcries of heavy-handidness by Madrid. Absent the cries of police brutality was any suggestion of how police should handle the unwanted job of removing thousands of protesters, and what is an acceptable level of force - critical to me, as I'd meditated for 2 weeks on horrid images of US police wailing on and pounding a black man's head into the pavement for two minutes, along with unneeded body slams say of a skinny girl in a tight skirt.

    More important, I didn't hear any discussion of what I'd been hearing for weeks - that Putin's bots had turned to fomenting dissension and turmoil in Catalonia, hoping for a final split that would give the EU another crisis to leave it on the ropes. This is impressive,as the story of how Russia manipulated the US election keeps snowballing as one unlikely scenario after another gets divulged.

    The outcome of Catalonia's unapproved referendum will be predictable - the people who will show up will be overly in favor of secession even as the majority may be iffy, and the supposed police overreaction will be presented as proof that Catalonians need independence *now*, fait accompli. Meanwhile Putin must be sniggering in his kofje - not a complaint in sight.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    There Was a Shooting and Who Wants This Fight Again?

    Honestly, I have nothing to add about 58 people (58?  Really?) being murdered at a music festival by somebody with a weapon of mass destruction.  It's all just too repetitive, isn't it?

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    Hef & the Culture Wars

    There are a million words to be written about the misogyny of Hugh Hefner's mission, many already being jotted down. There's a lot of humor and contempt to be had still for a grown man that liked hanging around in PJs far into adulthood. There's something to be said for his early civil rights support, as testified by Dick Gregory and others. And that lead me to the territory I'd like to address, as it goes to the crux of our recent NFL morass, the need for BLM, last year's election, and a host of other issues.

    Hefner founded the Playboy Club in 1953, not in tinseltown as we recall today but in Chicago, the thriving center of the Midwest.in our still glorious post-war phase. It was a conservative place in a conservative era. It's easy to think of the 50's as some Happy Days thing, Richie Cunningham all fresh and speckled, I like Ike kind of lovely romance with paradise and God-given but deserved success. But most here know that dream of the suburbs and the lucky trip to Vegas was a hyped-up myth, that the house didn't pay out nearly as often as stated, that half the "lucky ones" strolling in and out were shills. And instead of carefully crafted Walt Disney features and Elvis rockumentaries, it was as much about Lenny Bruce and Last Exit to Brooklyn and Naked Lunch and the  National Guard called out to LIttle Rock to enforce integration and McCarthyism and tons of other foul stuff covered with a sanctimonious wholesome totally marketed image in a Golden age of marketing. This was "Family Values", aka "we're Christian and you're not".

    Wanking Weiner

    Well, someone's got their schadenfreude going big time. Anthony Weiner's going to serve hard time, despite having destroyed his marriage and his party's campaign, undergone treatment, expressed remorse in no uncertain terms, for showing his wanker over the internet to purportedly an underage girl*.

    [*there's a whole load of suspicion over whether Russians and/or Republicans set  the known sickie Weiner up with an "underage girl" who seemed to have a Master's degree in English lit from her non-too adolescent literary references. But I guess for now we have to assume it's partly true, police penchant for lying or not.]

    Now let's compare this sentence with say Brock Turner, who raped a comatosely drunk college classmate (didn't even know her name) behind a dumpster, left her with her clothes wrapped around her ankles and her bare ass in the pine needles while Brock the perp tried to run away from 2 Swedes who fortunately happened to notice the ruckus.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Some People Are Not Duelable

    I'm not a big proponent of bringing back customs and manners from hundreds of years back. The centuries I study were much worse to live in than this one. But there is one concept from Ye Olden Days that (suitably retooled), I have always found pretty useful. That is the concept of people being "not duelable." I use it in my academic writing. I use it in my daily life. I occasionally teach it to graduate students. And it turns out to be a concept that both the Age of Twitter and the Age of Trump badly need.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Equifax and the CFPB

    Two days before we found out that credit reporting agency Equifax had been hacked and 143 million consumer records were compromised, I received an alert from my credit card company that somebody had attempted to buy $200 worth of merchandise at a Foot Locker in Queens.  Later, the Equifax website did acknowledge that my information may have been compromised.  I took the necessary steps to change cards and passwords.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Record Levels of Median Income (Not What It Seems)

    Last week, we learned that the median household income in the U.S. 2015 had jumped by around 5% to $56,000 a year. The news was greeted with good cheer and David Brooks even wrote a column in the Times proclaiming that capitalism is not broken.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Amazon Should Go to H--

    I expect you've all noticed that Amazon has started up a race to the bottom among suitor cities who would like to house it's next headquarters.  I think I've come up with a better spot...  I can't take the credit, though. Hail Satan!

    My third McSweeney's piece!

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    Danny Cardwell's picture

    Birth of A Myth, Death of A Dream

    Monday was the 54th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. Americans took to social media and proved once again why this speech is possibly the best and worst rhetorical device for confronting systemic racism in America.

    Dr. King's speech was a mix of the Bible, America’s founding documents and some of his earlier sermons. His words were seamlessly woven into a message that condemned the status quo while simultaneously offering a prophetic vision of a better day. Dr. King talked about the hope that came with the end of slavery and the heartbreak that followed when Emancipation turned into a 100-year nightmare sponsored by Black Codes, Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. His words aren’t the problem; the willful distortion of those words and his legacy undermine the events of that day.

    Trade Policy Reality Check - neither Scrooge nor Sucker

    I've noted this over and over, but maybe this one will get through. Below's a chart showing the largest countries. The 2 largest are down at the bottom with pathetic GDP per capita of China's $10K and maybe $4K for India. China has roughly 5x our population, India 4 1/2x. And while their income is awful, China's rose about 500% from super awful over 25 years, while India's has more than tripled.

    For some reason we're not able to ever think of that as *OUR* success, that rather than sending Bibles and powdered milk, we have found a real way to lift almost 3 billion people out of poverty in just 2 countries, and it certainly doesn't end there.

    Of course much of the credit belongs to them - cutting their birthrates drastically, producing productis and services that are wanted by the rest of the world, steady incremental improvements and attention to obvious areas like infrastructure & education, and less obvious ones like government regulations & judicial reform and various human rights. In the meantime, the last 8-10 years, we've been flat.

    Michael Maiello's picture

    The Necessary Anachronism of The Presidential Pardon

    I think it goes without saying that the best way to stop president from pardoning racists like Joe Arpaio is to not elect presidents who support such racism.  None of the angry commentary matters to Trump.  He didn't do this to please lefty, centrist or even mainstream Republican critics.  I suspect Trump had a bunch of reasons, ranging from a cagy signaling to associates who might be asked to court Robert Mueller's contempt to the banal "because he could."

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    Danny Cardwell's picture

    Charlottesville, Salem Witch Trials and Historic Monuments

    In the winter of 1692, Massachusetts Bay Colony was rocked by allegations of witchcraft. In January, a group of young girls from Salem Village claimed to be possessed by the devil. The girls were taken to a doctor who determined they had been “bewitched”. The girls aged 9 and 11 accused a local slave named Tituba of witchcraft.

     

     

    In early February Tituba was arrested and admitted to being a witch. During her confession, she accused other women in the village of being witches. By May of 1692 governor William Phips established a special court to handle the trials of those accused of witchcraft. On June 2nd, Bridget Bishop was convicted of witchcraft and hanged eight days later. This was the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials.

     

    If you travel to Salem, Massachusetts you can visit the Victim’s Memorial, take tours of the jail and visit several preserved structures in Danvers and Salem. What you won’t find are monuments built to honor the brave men who had to hang and torture the women and men accused of witchcraft. This bothers me. They were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. They did what they had to do to protect their way of life. They are part of history. Where are their statues?

     

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    Trump Does Not Care If People Get Hurt

    President Trump's impromptu press conference today was a shocking display of his moral depravity and his allegiance to bigotry. There are so many things wrong with it, in so many stunning ways, that everyone is trying to digest it and focusing on different parts. But one particularly scary thing has not yet gotten much attention: Trump shows a nearly complete lack of interest in preventing more bloodshed like this. That is unprecedented, and extremely dangerous.

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Taking Care With Language, Part II

    I should probably take down my last post, since NCD eviscerated it with, of all things, a dictionary, but I've waded so far into the river of blood that we may as well keep on wading, especially after this insane Times column by Bret Stephens this morning where he puts language in some sort of complex chokehold to argue that Trump failing to immediately condemn white supremacy is really no different from Obama's failure to call out "Islamic Extremism" during his terms in offi

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    Michael Maiello's picture

    Taking Care With Language

    We use language casually.  I suspect we always have, but if it appeals to you for me to say we use it more casually now in an era of constant news and Twittering, I'll at least say that a crush of imprecise language can probably warp our collective understanding of events.

    In Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was murdered by a 20-year-old named James Field Jr., who used his car as a weapon. He injured 18 other people in the attack.

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