Friday, November 24, 2017

LaVar Ball: Ass-Clown of the Year



The arrest of three UCLA basketball players in Hangzhou for shoplifting early this month was shameful enough. But it’s the reaction to the event by LaVar Ball, father of one of the players, that takes the cake for clueless. I nominate him Ass-Clown of 2017.

The debate over whether the man should thank the US president for getting his son out of ten years jail time in China is one thing. Of course he should thank him. He’s a moron for not doing so. But it’s not just that. What most people are forgetting in all this is any sense of what it means to be part of a nation, part of the United States.

China is our main global competitor at present. The shoplifting by these so-called "students" (I’ll use the scare quotes because I don’t think athletic scholarships should even be a thing) was of course widely reported in the Chinese press. Think about that for a moment. Given China's population of 1.4 billion, that means hundreds of millions of Chinese, catching this event in the news, were confirmed in their prejudice that America people of color are troublemakers and losers. Good job for you son there, LaVar.

LaVar said he would have thanked President Trump if he’d flown his kid home on Air Force One . “There’s a lot of room on that plane,” he said on CNN. Uh-huh. Does the man really have no idea what it means for national leaders to visit another country? Imagine how it would have played in Chinese media if our president, after getting them bailed out for their criminal behavior, had actually then flown these entitled "student" morons home in the presidential jet. Imagine the message it would convey, how the Chinese media would use it to dis American common sense in general and the sense of America’s leader in particular.

Rather than being a smart ass on national TV, LaVar Ball should be ashamed. The man's son, as a youth representative of the US, disgraced tens of millions of Americans in front of literally hundreds of million Chinese. And yes, he and his two teammates disgraced people of color. I don’t know why more black Americans, in particular, aren’t calling Ball out on his cluelessness. This “father” thinks his son stealing is no big deal; and the Chinese, reading the reports, will naturally assume this to be typical of how American blacks think.

That CNN treated LaVar Ball with anything but utter contempt tells you something about CNN. Not thanking your country’s president for saving your son’s future? Shoplifting “ain’t that big a deal"? Yeah, I myself don’t give much of a damn about ball players. But as for this ex-ball player and father, I wouldn't waste my spit on the man’s face.

My novel A Taipei Mutt is now in print. The Asian capital unmuzzled.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Russiagate Shuffle: More Pathetic Pleading from NYT



One of my more liberal friends recently challenged what he called my “cynical” attitude toward the big names in American journalism: the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. “There is a thing called skepticism,” he wrote, “and a thing called cynicism. You are really starting to fall into the latter.”

Ironically, not a day later, he sent me a link to an editorial in the New York Times which, he said, conveyed his own thinking on why Mueller’s Russia investigation was important. He thought the piece was spot on. It was David Klion’s “Why Don’t Sanders Supporters Care About the Russia Investigation?” When I read it, I was really almost flabbergasted.

This is what you send me to demonstrate my cynicism is misplaced?

Let me explain. I’ve lived in Asia for decades now, in Taiwan, and have keenly watched the political shifts in my home country, the US, with a feeling of ever more distance. And not a small amount of shock. In recent years, one of the things that’s struck me most is the degree to which some of my sharpest friends from the past have become what I’d call zombified. I really can’t comprehend their inability to see things that seem glaringly obvious. There are many of these things, a whole heap, and one of them is surely the absurdity of Russiagate. And this shabby editorial this good friend from the past sent me—how could he not manage to see what it was about?

Since I went out of my way this time to snap my old friend out of his NYT-induced funk, I’ve decided to post my remarks here:

-----Yes, David Klion’s piece underlines a lot of key themes relative to the problem of globalized corporate oligarchy. And these problems are obvious. But sit back and think for a minute. Fighting corporate oligarchy was not the reason Mueller was put in charge of the Russiagate investigation. The reason the investigation was launched was to find evidence of Russian collusion with the Trump administration that would amount to tampering with the 2016 election. And surprise: NO EVIDENCE HAS BEEN FOUND.

In short, this NYT piece is yet another example, and a pretty transparent one, of trying to milk something newsworthy out of Russiagate. But the problem to me seems clear enough: Russiagate is by definition NOT newsworthy. Because it doesn't exist. There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to sway the election to his advantage. If there had been, it would have been found out many months ago.

So what we have here from the NYT, sorry to say, is YET ANOTHER example of what has infuriated me and many others about the "journalism" coming from the NYT/WaPo/MSNBC/CNN axis. I'd like to call them the Axis of Feeble. Because if, like me, you've been following the Russiagate business from the start, you will see that when one claim falls apart, this little press axis just shifts to implying that the investigation is about some other claim. It's gotten downright pathetic. It's gotten mendacious. It's shameful.

Let's take a moment, old friend, to consider how this new piece works. Or tries to work. Bear me out, and I think you'll come to see what I've been seeing for many months now. The reason for what you call my cynicism. At least I hope you see it.

Look at the article's first paragraph: "Nearly every day, new details emerge about the relationship between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. The extent of the alleged collusion, which may ultimately endanger Mr. Trump’s presidency, has yet to be determined, but the scandal has dominated news coverage and enthralled Washington."

This a statement of fact that doesn't amount to anything. What is stated? "Every day, new details emerge." Of course every day new details emerge. The problem is that none of those details is evidence of collusion or even very interesting in itself. Are Paul Manafort's dealings in Ukraine many years ago newsworthy as far as the 2016 election? No. Is Flynn's undisclosed meeting such a big deal? Hardly. Plenty of people in both parties have had plenty of meetings with Russians, as they've had meetings with Germans, Chinese, and Indians. Meetings don't mean anything. After a full year of this sordid business, there is still NO SMOKING GUN. And there won't be. (A recent article by Caitlin Johnstone does a good job of explaining why there almost certainly won't be. Check her out.)

The other statement in the first paragraph, namely that "the [Russiagate] scandal has dominated news coverage and enthralled Washington"--yes, that's true too in a bland and irrelevant way. Because what does it even mean? It only means that establishment Washington, loathing Trump, can get excited over a conspiracy theory and that, to its shame, can continue to PRETEND to be excited over the theory long after it's clear the theory points to no concrete truth. A

fter the article's first few paragraphs (which quote a few sane people like Noam Chomsky) did you notice how THE WHOLE FOCUS OF THE ARTICLE SHIFTS? No more is there anything about the 2016 election; rather it's all just bromides about international capitalism. You could write the same article substituting the names of other countries in for Russia. Because there are dirty deals and money laundering from one side of the globe to the other. And probably Trump's friends and Hillary's friends and Manafort's friends have their fingers in various of these global pies. We all know this, and the Russiagate investigation is not going to help a democratic citizenry fight this constant wheeling and dealing. Nor is the NYT going to help much either, when push comes to shove.

In short, this article is an exercise in BAIT AND SHIFT. Honest analysts on right and left are all saying that the Russiagate investigation is, in terms of its original mandate, an utter joke. This NYT article does its best to imply that they're wrong about that because, you see . . . oligarchy. The writer's trying to save face for the establishment press by not-so-subtly re-purposing the investigation.

Can't you see this? Sure, parts of the article may reflect your thinking on oligarchy, but c'mon--that question is NOT what the investigation was about. Was Mueller tasked with investigating the Trump team in order to find arguments for leftists to use against apologists of globalized corporate capitalism? No, he was not. He was tasked with finding out how Russia colluded with Trump to sway a democratic election. He has found, and will find, NOTHING.

Two more things:

1) Note how the name UraniumOne doesn't even appear in the article. That's just another example of NYT bias. They're afraid a new investigation will be launched, and that their gal will be under the lens. If there's any story that might give us an object lesson in how corporate backroom deals with politicians subvert national interests, UraniumOne is at least as worthy a story as Paul Manafort's greed.

2) Note that even Masha Gessen--diehard Putin foe and Russian-American LGBT activist, a woman who loathes Trump almost as much as the guy running her homeland--note that even she is quoted in the chorus of those pointing out the Russiagate investigation is a waste of time. Gessen is not always honest in her writing. But she has to admit the truth on this one. And that should tell you something. Because Gessen is a woman who would like Trump impeached and Putin roasted alive.

This article may seem worthy to you in some of the points it makes, I don't know. But to me, in terms of a coherent editorial, it's trash. It's a cheap rhetorical game, nothing more. It's like a man who says he wants you to try a new IPA and ends by putting an iced green tea in front of you. I will drink elsewhere.

* * *

I'm still waiting for my friend's reply to these remarks.

My novel A Taipei Mutt is now in print. The Asian capital unmuzzled.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Gospel of Mark: a World-Historical Text


And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter. --Mark 1:40-45

This passage appeared in a friend’s post. Mark, the earliest of the the Gospels, and the shortest of them, is also in many ways the most powerful--a brilliant, world-altering text. If we think about it, whoever this author was, he created a new genre of writing to communicate a new reality that had entered the world. Scholars point out that his Greek was crabbed, uncouth. But his narrative skills were immense.

In Mark we see the human side of Jesus. We see him almost as a man who is reeling from his own powers. And much in the narrative indicates a closeness to the crowds that thronged to get near this power.

Erich Auerbach, the first couple chapters of whose Mimesis are sheer brilliance, points out that this writer was the first in the ancient world to write of the lower classes as fully human characters. Mark brought into writing an entirely new, and more fully human, way of communicating social reality. And as I suggest, this is because he recognized that with Jesus social reality had been altered radically.

E.M.

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. at Amazon.com and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A Gay Man Returning to the Catholic Church?


It was in an online discussion of Milo Yiannopoulos’ interview with the Jesuit magazine America. Myself I thought Milo had done a great job of it. Matt, a 20-something gay friend of mine, who’d grown up in a very Catholic town, weighed in to say he was stunned a Jesuit magazine had even agreed to interview Milo. This same friend had recently surprised me with the news that he was attending Mass again. He'd even gone to Confession.

I’d describe Matt as brilliant, precocious, complex. Though part of Catholic culture, he’d always criticized the Church, and for the years I’ve known him was certainly far from being a “practicing Catholic”.

Our discussion that day, in chat, is very brief, but I want to post it because it allowed me to summarize a few points I keep wanting to make--points that also relate to Milo's interview.

Thing is, Matt was already despairing over his future as a practicing Catholic. Here’s how it went:

MATT: Meh. I probably won't go back to Church. I don't want to live a celibate life, and I can't be arsed spending time around people who consider me fundamentally immoral and spiritually disordered. Some crosses are too heavy to bear.

MYSELF: But here's the thing--the point, if I may raise it, that I think you're missing. I don't think any really serious Catholic will think you're "fundamentally immoral". Or rather: they will think we are all fundamentally immoral.

The mistake of post-1960s Westerners is to assume that we are fundamentally defined by our sexuality. This is why we’ve been subject to so much of the SJW cultural ranting regarding this whole question. I myself have come to realize that this shift in the definition of the person is more a late effect of Protestantism, bending toward Gnosticism, than anything else. The shift has taken in many Catholics too. But it's a mistake; it's a modern perversion of the faith. Even the coded definition of people as hetero or some letter of LGBTQwerty is a modern invention. Most cultures through most of human history have just recognized that humans are sexual.

Something eccentric is going on with us. We're out on a limb in our basic anthropology, and we're moving further and further out.

So if I were you, I'd keep thinking this through. And I don't think you're even close to fundamentally immoral. You're probably more fundamentally moral than plenty of the others attending Mass. Milo in his interview was right, I believe, to recognize that he has sin, but that the sin society defines him for is not his worst sin--rather that pride is a more dangerous sin.

One option is to, as it were, cordon off your sex life for the time being. By which I don't mean to actually become celibate, but rather to allow the contradiction to exist, but put it aside while you keep faith with those aspects of the Church's tradition that you can.

I haven't had coffee yet, so I'm not so sure these points are well put. But I think they're very important--that we've been more or less brainwashed by the culture into assuming that our definitional center is sexual behavior. It is not. Even most of the Christians around us are in this respect more "late modern Westerners" than they are Christian. But you don’t have to be.

MATT: Good points. And thanks for the advice! Maybe I’m being over-dramatic on this question.

I'm not all that obsessed with sex anyway. I just worked myself up into a tizzy thinking, "Who are THEY to demand that I be celibate!"--without realizing that, in theory at least, all Catholics could spend their lives celibate if they go unmarried.

I'll keep thinking these things through, and continue with my experiment. In any case, I'm not in a relationship at present.

* * *

And that was that. Myself I don’t know how most gays or lesbians will react to my points, but I do stand by them as important. The contemporary world, especially post-1960s, has sex on the brain in ways that warp what is essential in both the meaning of personhood and the meaning of faith. And, I'd add, in the meaning of sex itself.

E.M.

Have some deadpan with your coffee. Check out Idiocy, Ltd. Dryest damn humor in the West.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Jeff Flake and the Meaning of Failure




I'd heard about Sen. Jeff Flake's early retirement protest, but hadn't watched his speech. A friend messaged me: "You really should watch it. It’s very good. My concern is that the 'good' people are resigning, when that is exactly the opposite of what we need." She pasted the link:


Since I commented at length in reply, I've decided to blog my remarks here.

E.M.: Watched the whole Flake speech. My reaction to it is mixed. Yes, I don't like aspects of Trump's governing, and I do think his personality doesn't help. That said, I find it odd that you call Flake one of the "good" people--though you did put the word in quotes. He knows how to hit all the pious notes, and he does have some good points, but here's what I see in in his speech.

1) It is the establishment talking, the establishment registering its protest against Trump. This is the same establishment that wanted Dubya, that wanted Clinton, that loathed both Bernie and Trump, and loathed them for some of the very same reasons: a) Both Bernie and Trump stood for discontinuing the neocon foreign policy of ongoing US "nation building" in the Middle East; b) Both Bernie and Trump wanted out of international trade deals.

When Sen. Flake here talks about "international agreements" and "organizations", etc., you should keep in mind what these words mostly mean to the establishment: they mean more corporate-run globalization, more corporate-run wars.

I think Flake's speech had a lot in common with Dubya's speech a few days back. Dubya mentioned the word "freedom" multiple times: America and freedom, freedom and America, freedom freedom freedom. But I know what the establishment mainly means by "freedom": they mean freedom of capital to move across borders and thus evade control by national governments. The freedom they value is the freedom of the oligarchs to play the whole globe as a chess board and evade every downside--all while they keep talking about “freedom”. (NB: Though I was impressed by some of Flake's points as valid, Dubya's speech I found horrific in its falseness.)

2) These early retirement announcements by Flake and Corker, in my mind, are mainly proof that the populist, anti-globalist right represented by Trump (in his often flailing way) is successfully pushing the establishment out of the GOP. I'm glad of that. I don't think the smarter members of this particular movement are against real freedom in any demonstrable way: quite the contrary. It's the Republican establishment that is the greater threat to freedom, since it will always compromise on principle under corporate pressure, and the voters now recognize this. The Republican establishment is unconnected to the voters, and the voters now know it. As was proven in the last election, where Trump and Cruz wiped out all the establishment GOP candidates. I think between the two of them they took 80% or something of primary votes.

3) I find it painfully ironic that Flake speaks of the need to recognize failure but not excuse it. He said: “[We all need to be forgiven at times for failures, myself included.] But too often . . . we rush to forgive and excuse our failures, so that we might accommodate them and go on failing.”

He's saying this of course because he’s keen to call out what he sees as Trump's failures. But you know why Trump and not Jeb Bush is in office? Because of failure. Because of the gigantic failure of our CONGRESS for decades now--Flake's "dignified" Congress.

In short, if Flake wants to talk about not allowing a nefarious “new normal” to take root, I’d say the new normal that should not have been allowed to take root happened years ago. Trump's tweeting or slipshod language are not the main problem America has to deal with. The main problem is the brokenness of "normal" Washington. You know this too. In short, Flake is good at calling out Trump's failures, but did he resign when his whole party was rubber-stamping whatever Wall Street or the corporations wanted? Did he resign when the plan on the table was to outsource another gazillion manufacturing jobs because that’s what the oligarchs wanted? He didn't. And the voters know it.

4) As for the valid elements in Flake's speech, yes, I think it's pretty dismal the level of discourse that our two-party political circus has sunk to. And Trump is pretty much a circus barker. It does set a bad example for youth, and it maybe does weaken our standing in the world a bit. (But on this latter I'm still not fully decided. Because there are so many factors to take into account. Is Trump's personality weakening our stature, or are his demands that our partners take up some of their responsibility actually strengthening that stature?)

In any case, as for the descent of discourse into ad hominem attacks and vulgarity, I think that ship sailed before Trump. I don't think Obama descended there, but our media culture has been there a long time now. And yes, the liberals since last year have been just as vulgar and spiteful as anything Trump or his supporters can come up with.

Where do I stand on the issues? That's a longer subject. In general, I'm happy to see a movement on the right that is challenging the neocons and the Washington normal. I'm happy to see a smart right that his eviscerating the left's identity politics, which I consider un-American, authoritarian, abhorrent. I don't agree with some of their positions on this or that, and don't think Trump himself is likely to drain the swamp in the way most of his base hopes. But I'm glad the movement is there.

As for the American left, I really see no hope for it. I think it's got no sane foreign policy, no workable economic theory; that, bizarrely, it doesn't even seem to notice economics anymore. I thought Bernie was an honest and committed leftist, and might have been able to put together a serious challenge to the establishment, but even Bernie would have been too subject to riding the unbreakable identity-politics wave that is now the Democratic base. And so in office he'd likely have been abetting all kinds of authoritarian PC nonsense I would have been opposed to.

Clinton herself, if she is the left, which I think she is in terms of representing a huge voting base that calls itself left, is just a PC neocon. Which is what I'd call the majority of "left" voters in the US at present. They’re Republicans waving various PC flags.

As for the left that is our youth movement--Antifa, the millions of liberal-leaning university grads, etc.--they’re political children, with no idea of what the left needs to be. And they won’t learn either.

So . . . there will be no standing against the establishment from this political left. Because, like it or not, Bernie is not an army, but an individual. Yes, he gathered a big following. But many many of his followers are likely more drunk on the identity-politics Kool-Aid than they are interested in fighting capitalism in any comprehensively left way.

A lot of typing here. Rather quickly too. I hope you can get the gist.

* * *

Update: Weird. Patrick Buchanan makes almost precisely the same series of points I made here. If I didn't know better, I'd say he's reading my blog. To judge by time stamp (my blog is set to British time) Buchanan's article hit a few hours after mine. Yes, I'd say it's better argued than mine. See "It's Trump's Party Now".

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. at Amazon.com and begin the long, hard reckoning.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Wages of (Postmodern) Sin


When the faithless masses of my contemporaries die, their souls do not end up in Hell; they end up in Heck. One may think this punishment less, but still it is extreme. For eternity they will wail there, regretting that they hadn’t been perceptive enough in life to attain to faith and so have a route to redemption. But they will also gnash their teeth in shame, recognizing they never had enough grandeur in them to merit the flames of Hell. And so Heck will drag on, a fetid heaviness in the air, as they spend their days in lines waiting to exchange coupons for gadgets and novelties which keep repeating themselves--which, when they get them back to their cubicles, always somehow end up being the same thing: a little semi-lifelike effigy of the buyer him- or herself.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Trump Derangement Syndrome: The Threat is Real


Antifa: The Revolution in All New Two-Digit IQ

Only you can stop TDS. Trump Derangement Syndrome, a serious mental disorder that primarily attacks those on the Right Side of History™, is spreading rapidly through our nation. Symptoms include: infantile denial ("She really WON!"), paranoid delusional thinking ("Russia Russia Russia"), and a tendency to lash out violently against law-abiding Americans while hallucinating they are “white supremacists” and “fascists”. Mental health professionals have noted that demographics on the east and west coasts are especially susceptible to TDS.

If you see symptoms of TDS in a loved one or coworker, you might provide initial assistance by telling him or her or xem or pfiff to "Pull Your Head Out of your Ass and Face Reality Why Not?" If the sufferer continues to spout garbled SJW or CNN soundbites from the rectal cavity, seek professional help immediately. Psychiatrists warn of a possible major outbreak of the disease on November 4th.

Trump Derangement Syndrome, though widespread, need not lead to the breakdown of law and order in America. But the threat is real. Sane citizens are advised to take the epidemic seriously, and to prepare for any eventuality.

E.M.

Have some deadpan with your coffee. Check out Idiocy, Ltd.. Dryest damn humor in the west.