Archives for category: The Traditional and Typical of Chinese glorious quality Control and Dioxin Cookie

Scatologically oriented individuals not familiar with the Pennsylvania Dutch Country (I have in mind people like Lady Kentfield) may be amazed, or at the very least pleasantly titillated, to hear that Shartlesville is a real place. It’s located on Interstate 78 between Allentown and Harrisburg. I’ve been through it a number of times.

It’s a place that, to be honest, has nothing whatsoever to do with this essay. It does, however, have a name that’s hella funny, if you’re thirteen, and disgustingly topical.

They can’t be avoided. They’re legion. You see them late in the evening at gas stations in East St. Louis, struggling to retrieve appropriate donuts from the bakery case. You see them piloting their scooters along Orangethorpe Avenue in Buena Park, opportunely stuffing another few onion rings into the pie hole just as they pass you in front of St. Pius V. There’s enough sidewalk, but not by a wide margin, because that part of the margin is theirs. Perhaps you wonder, a bit abashedly, how you can look down on them when you’re en route to Paul’s Place for an Ortega burger meal, one of the most gluttonous meals in Orange County, but it’s an impertinent question. Those who walk upright can’t help but look down on those who are scooterbound by fifty. Literally. It doesn’t help things that you’re walking close to two miles round-trip to get lunch and dude’s flying Old Glory off the back of his rig. His FICA deductions can’t be enough to pay the Scooter Store for his chair, his bus fare sure as hell won’t cover the cost of the delays OCTA suffers when he boards and alights through the center door (because OCTA’s procurement officers are the kind of dumbos who think that center-door wheelchair ramps make sense), and he’s probably on SSI, but at least he’s patriotic about being a net financial and social drain on his society. God bless America.

His kind travel by local bus. But of course. The British gutter press prefers to focus on those who buy custom pickups to accommodate their own girth, but those are outliers. As a spatial matter, there may not always be enough space to shoehorn another of the prematurely bescootered living a life of learned helplessness onto the bus, but as a legal matter, there is, because if there weren’t it would be a disability rights lawsuit waiting to happen.

These aren’t Queen’s big fat fatties. If they’re of the female perspective, BBW is a stretch, kind of like what has happened to their skin. If they’re shapely, it’s only because those beholding them have an unimaginable catholicity of taste when it comes to shapes. When I say that I like big girls, I–how can I say this?–I don’t mean that. Left to my own devices, I’d let the details go unspoken, since I’m attracted to women of various sizes and consider it rather gauche to stipulate technical specifications for my dates, but there’s a lot of size elision in the BBW community, and this is the same community that popularized “Myspace angles” and is notorious for refusing to countenance basic nuances about body size and attitude. They leave me no choice but to specify that my strong desire to spoon the living daylights out of certain self-confident, full-bodied women because they’re totally snugglable (okay, I’d bang them, too, especially if they took the initiative) does not imply a tacit desire to thus caress thoroughly insecure bathroom self-portraitists whose asses would envelop the spare tire that I carry around above a 36″ waist.

No. There’s fat, and then there’s holy shitballs I must be tripping on acid because there’s a guy at this Chinese restaurant who’s made up of all kinds of shapes that don’t exist in nature. Go figure that I ran into this guy while mildly sleep-deprived (not literally into him; I’m not sure I’d have made it back out), having just arrived in Los Angeles from Sacramento on a trip that started at 5:15 am. I was in an even worse state in East St. Louis, having driven all day from Colby, KS, on five and a half hours’ sleep; later that night, I drove the first four miles out of Brazil, IN, on Interstate 70 with just my running lights, but even so, my Civic and I made it to Indy intact. One does not simply keep a straight face around the well-rounded donut enthusiast in these circumstances.

This guy at the restaurant in Chinatown wasn’t just fat. He was cubist. He looked like something out of “Guernica,” probably a missing apartment block on the edge of town. I wasn’t trying to look at him; the waitress had seated me there, and I hadn’t had the presence of mind to check that there was no megafauna in my field of view and sit facing the other direction. Surprisingly, this guy had three fairly slender friends with him. Collectively, I’d guess that these guys weighed fifty pounds more than he did. He was Latino, as were one or two of his friends; I recall one or two of his friends being Asian, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them.

Realize that the restaurant where this scene unfolded was not a buffet; they probably would have been barred from the premises if it had been. Lunch was a la carte, and no kidding, the boys were there for lunch. Biggie didn’t distinguish himself just by his size; whenever I glanced in his table’s direction, he had a fork in hand. He ate with great gusto. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen another person eat so heartily.

Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’. The absurd pathos of it all was too much for me in my sleep-compromised state. Like a friendzoning ex in an overwrought eighties power pop ballad by Chicago, I had to look away, baby, look away. Of course I didn’t want him to see me that way; it was just common decency. I continued to steal a glance now and then when I felt an unusual degree of self-control. I stayed long enough to see his party get up and leave. To my relief and slight surprise, even Biggie up and left the table on his own two feet; I might not normally describe his manner of movement as “walking,” but for a man of his girth it was close enough. Verily, as he waddled away from lunch, he left replenished with fuel for the journey that we call life.

Throughout this grotesque scene, I felt smug in an Old Testament sort of way: Thank you, God, that I am not a woman, or a gentile, or an ass, or of a size and shape that have never been described in the Torah since we ancients simply haven’t seen such people. It was certainly a nice feeling while it lasted. Just by sheer contrast, Biggie made me figure that I had my shit together. Another thing I figured was that I’d probably make it to the Starbucks in Little Tokyo without coming into any significant intestinal discomfort. I figured I’d have to shit before long, but probably not within a half hour. Right?

Wrong. As I stood on the platform at the Chinatown Gold Line station, I felt the need to fart. Not to urgently shit; just to fart. No one else was nearby, and the station is outdoors: so far, so good. But when I cut it loose, it had that tell-tale warm, moist feeling. Oops, I realized, I think I just went poo in my asshole a little bit; I do believe I just beshat myself slightly on a fucking light rail platform. I knew that I could easily hop off at Union Station for an emergency ass-wiping, but I also knew that doing so would turn my circumstances from slightly disgusting to powerfully disgusting. I did not feel like mixing it up with disheveled crazies in a filthy restroom right then, so I held on, walked a bit more smoothly than usual through Little Tokyo, and made it to Starbucks. There I confirmed my fear: I had kept the mess off my underwear, but only through utmost discipline; as I thought, I had sharted.

It felt for all the world like karma. I gawked and snickered at Biggie, discreetly, for his uncontrolled gastrointestinal activities as a differently-sized American. Not half an hour later, I lost bowel control, discreetly, in a rapid transit station. The punishment seemed proportional to the crime, fifteen minutes of private-enough grossness for fifteen minutes of private-enough haughtiness towards an unimaginable mouthstuffer of unimaginable proportions, give or take. And it seemed appropriate that karma should come anally. It’s true of any karma, but especially so of karma for rudeness over alimentary failures of the flesh. At the one end, Biggie couldn’t keep it out, and at the opposite end, I couldn’t keep it in. It was embarrassing (for him, too, if he had any introspection), but in my case it felt instructive.

Of course, I’ll still laugh at the morbidly obese; if I’m not a slave to the sinful nature, I’m a slave to the point-and-laugh-at-the-unnatural nature. But with any foresight, I’ll do some abdominal floor exercises beforehand. Look, it’s not like I’m trim and ripped. I’m no Channing Tatum. It’d be really cool if more women looked at me more than skin deep, especially the hot ones, but I can understand why they don’t. If they looked less superficially at Biggie, say, at an autopsy or a gross anatomy lab, they’d discover that he has mad muscles; the blubber doesn’t move itself, now. A lot of us actually are ripped; it’s just hard for the superficial to see it beneath the insulation.

I’ll laugh at them, but I’ll laugh at them cautiously. We all laugh at larger-than-life Americans at our own peril. They’re among us.

Put more accurately, we are among them. If it were really our world, would the rest of us have to vacate the good seats near the rear bus door to make way for Scooter Store customers who could probably walk well enough if they tried? Would Southwest Airlines have come to grief over that passenger spillover surcharge nonsense? I think not. These things happen for a reason. We are but small, substanceless men living in a land of giants.

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I’m glad Akismet allows me to read and post these gems rather than preemptively flushing them down the electronic Thomas Crapper. And it’s a testament to Akismet’s programmers that their software can distinguish this garbage from legitimate comments. That takes some serious linguistic skill.

In closing, scrape me please the lovely blogging of your excellent work well done. Bitch.

Note: More commentators to come, maybe, along with some editing, perhaps. Don’t quote me on it, though; unlike these fools, I’m not paid for it. 

Do I have what it takes to be an op-ed commentator? To quote a certain former governor of Alaska and pack leader of mama grizzlies, you betcha.

Now, now, I must be getting mighty arrogant to say such a thing, right? How can I compare myself to these greats and say that I’m fit for national syndication as a debate-shaper and opinionmaker?

Damn straight I can answer that. It’s all about relative greatness.

An all-too-lengthy example: the problem with the Detroit Lions before their big hiring spree was that they masochistically insisted on playing other professional football teams. America may have been ready for some FOOTBALL, but the Lions weren’t. Keep in mind, though, that these statements are contingent on the meaning of “football.” For one thing, are we talking about football or FOOTBALL? The Detroit Lions might not have been an even match for the Nittany Lions, but they might well have kicked some Nazarene ass–excuse me, butt–against the Sea Lions, formerly the Crusaders, at Point Loma. Mind you, these aren’t the sort of sea lions that are traditionally a tourist attraction and pain in the fisherman’s ass at Pier 39, but a sort of lion that lives in the sea, its muzzle covered with seaweed. Hey, Napoleon, you interested in cross-breeding this thing for some serious magic? The Lions’ motto in that matchup might have been, “Sloppy, wet pussy: it’s what’s for dinner!”

Eww, that was gratuitous. And irresistible. In any event, it’s a lot more intelligent and edifying than “who dat?” The good Christians at Point Loma Nazarene University may be too schizoid to choose between admitting students primarily on the basis of pastoral recommendations and walking on eggshells in order not to offend people who find the Crusades distasteful (“Gee, on the one hand, we want to provide a nurturing environment for the beneficiaries of nepotism and religious tests, but on the other hand, we don’t want to offend the public by being politically incorrect”), but certain things they instinctively know, among them, that their school is not called to be a football powerhouse.

Leave that to USC. The Trojans, fittingly named for a brand of condom, may be a vulgar rabble of this world, but they know how to throw the pigskin. And puke in the alleyway after the game. They may not be able to hold their liquor, but that isn’t really the point, is it? It’s more like the Indonesian ferry business: take on board what you can, then squeeze in a few more if there’s possibly space, because if you can’t steer straight and spill it all out in the Straits of Molucca, well, hey, those things happen. Ask Chelsea Handler. USC is the skipper who brags, “Hey, Schettino, suck on this! I just got beached in the deep end of San Pedro Harbor!” So is Penn State.

Another team that the Lions could have crushed were the Eagles. No, not the ones with Donovan McNabb and the yahoo fans; the Juniata Eagles. Because Juniata is all about REAL STUDENTS playing REAL FOOTBALL. Which is patent bullshit, unless it pertains to Stanford, in which case it’s maybe, sorta bullshit; confirm details with the team’s tutors. Penn State plays REAL FOOTBALL, but do you think it recruits REAL STUDENTS for the job? Ha!

Finally, the real point to all that extraneous bullshit: if I become a paid member of the commentariat, I wouldn’t be able to beat them so much on account of my great insights as their terrible ones. It would be like wondering why all the Pop Warner teams keep losing to the same JV squad. Or why Danny Bonaduce keeps losing debates to Rick Santorum.

Truth be told, I would make a shitty op-ed columnist. For one thing, I’m too damn pedantic and distractible. The editors would probably mutilate my pieces, which could be part of the explanation for some of the dolts on today’s op-ed pages, but not all of it.

Let’s not pretend that these doofuses are all greats. Many of them are polished writers, but a great many of them, competent writers or not, are intellectual buffoons. Some of them are also condescending shits, petulant turd-throwers or patent asshats. If one expands the survey beyond syndicated newspaper columns to partisan magazines and nonfiction book publishing, it gets worse. If Ann Coulter is the author in question, much worse.

Some of the stinkers:

David Brooks:

I like ragging on Brooks, especially about his trips to the Applebee’s salad bar. This is one of the few pastimes that I share with bog-standard leftist turd-hurlers.

Am I gratuitous to rib him? Mostly, but not entirely. In the highest tradition of Jayson Blair, Brooks appears to have just made shit up: Brooks once claimed that it’s impossible to spend $20 a head at the Red Lobster in Chambersburg, PA; a manager contacted by a muckraker on the Brooks beat disagreed. Brooks inspired a minor lefty Internet meme when he wrote approvingly of the bourgeois values of the Applebee’s salad bar; since Applebee’s doesn’t have a salad bar, this gaffe became shorthand for Brooks’ obliviousness, sloppiness or, for the conspiratorially minded, Blairite fictional proclivities. I love trafficking Internet memes, although usually not ones promoted by leftist shit-talkers, because no matter how much I agree with them on the substance of their pet issues, I find their very stance towards the world offensive. All the same, I’m with them in this case on Brooks’ journalistic ethics. I used to live in South-Central Pennsylvania, and there’s simply no way that a diligent reporter would spout Brooks’ rubbish about restaurant prices in the region. If nothing else, it’s a great way for him to prove to the locals that he’s out of touch. Lancastrians aren’t particular lobster afficionados, but you can bet that the ones who dine out have a sense of crab prices. It’s nigh impossible to order a steak between West Chester and Hagerstown that hasn’t been covered in a fucking pile of crab meat. That’s how Central Pennsylvanians show that they’re classy; only a poor rube wouldn’t go all surf-and-turf. And the exchange rate isn’t what Brooks makes it out to be; you aren’t getting that mess of meat for a ten spot.

Actually, I was a bit unfair. There are Denny’s franchises in the area where an honest-to-God steak can be had without the Old Bay fuss; I haven’t tried their whole steaks, so I can’t review them, but Denny’s gets its pile-of-meat mixie-uppies spot on. Also, I can assure you that I know more about Denny’s than David Brooks does. If he’s looking for sit-down meals on the cheap, why the hell does use datelines from Red Lobster?

Truth be told, though, David Brooks is no more expected to vet and document his sources like a real journalist than I am expected to do so as a publisher of my own longform screeds. That isn’t his role at the Gray Lady. Doubtless there are some earnest souls who disagree, but the joke is on them. The purpose of Brooks’ trips to chain restaurants in the hinterlands, to the extent that he actually makes the trips, isn’t to report on them. There’s a reason that his columns don’t run in the travel section. The raison d’etre for these restaurant reviews is to rib rich liberals. Instead of Stuff White People Like, he writes about Stuff White People Don’t Like. Instead of defining BoBos by what they are (which he has also done), in these instances he defines them by what they are not. He’s a peddler of softcore horror stories: “Just imagine how uncomfortable you’d feel around a bunch of gun-owning, churchgoing Republicans who drive Minivans and love suburban life at the Olive Garden in Huber Heights. The fright.” These stories don’t have to be representative of the places where they’re allegedly set, or even factually accurate. They’re allegories; they need only be pertinent to liberal yuppies’ embarrassing fears.

Brooks’ other great purpose is to use his unfailingly milquetoast demeanor and writing style to express sentiments that would sound every bit as odious as they actually are if they were expressed by other, less cagey, public figures. Where Newt Gingrich comes across as a disgruntled West Virginia mine superintendent stewing over the emigration of his peons to union jobs in Detroit, David Brooks sounds like the eminently reasonable thinker, the conservative that even liberals can’t help but love, as long as one doesn’t pay close attention to the substance of what he’s saying: “While it’s true that the Pinkertons could be a bit rough at times, the country experienced increases in industrial output under their leadership. It just goes to show that it can be difficult to balance the interests of different stakeholders….Well, this is an interesting case. Obviously there are many people who don’t appreciate what they consider robbery by contract on the part of an overbearing elite, but at the same time this elite is quite well educated, and it some of the things that it’s doing are visionary. Now, are we turning into an oligarchy, like Russia? I’d say obviously not….” Fabius Maximus recommended reading one of Brooks’ laudatory columns about the superiority of the new elite with an air sickness bag in hand, and although I didn’t have any sort of visceral reaction to the piece, had anyone else written it I would have wanted to give the author a good whack on the head. The thesis was that we’ll love our new overlords because they’re extra competent and perceptive and really are here to serve man; what Brooks omitted was that it’s a cookbook. It’s hard to tell whether Brooks is an unusually crafty operator or is baffled by his own bullshit. Either way, he isn’t half as highminded as he sounds.

Thomas Friedman: 

Several years ago a member of the peanut gallery at Clusterfuck Nation proposed a fill-in-the-blank template for Thomas Friedman columns that summarized the earth-flattener to a T: “So I was in Kuala Lampur having dinner with Bill Gates, the King of Prussia and Dean Acheson, when the busboy mentioned that he loves Britney Spears’ music. Wow, the world really is flat!”

Indeed, Friedman is one of the most impulsive name droppers in the commentariat. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that anyone has heard of these luminaries: “Several months ago on a flight from Singapore to Tokyo, I was seated next to the Japanese Deputy Vice Minister of Whale Meat. It was great to be able to get so much information about international maritime policy from such an official, but I have to admit that I really talked his ear off. He really took advantage of the open bar on our Singapore Airlines flight, which he wouldn’t have been able to do on Delta, since American air carriers are insulated from competitive pressure to keep their passengers sloshed thanks to protectionist policies sheltering these sclerotic institutions from an irreversibly flattening world. When we landed at Narita he was visibly upset. On the way to the immigration lanes, which are run much more efficiently than their counterparts in the United States, he took off his belt and made a comment about possibly hanging himself from a support beam, if he could find one within reach. A police officer overheard him and intervened. After a brief scuffle during which the officer was furiously beaten with the Deputy Vice Minister of Whale Meat’s dress belt, the officer was able to calm him down. The last thing I heard was the Deputy Vice Minister sobbing while the officer comforted him, saying, ‘Yes, I know, Americans can be that way.’ Had the Deputy Vice Minister made such a comment at Kennedy, the Port Authority Police would have just shrugged and taken another bite of pizza. This incident underscored the need to streamline and improve government services so that they are efficient and responsive, not lackadaisical and sloppy. In a flat world, a country cannot afford to have a police force that lets its government officials commit suicide in its largest airports because its officers are busy having lunch. There’s no time for lunch in a flat world.”

For Thomas Friedman, life is a race that never ends, and the US is losing because we won’t renovate our infrastructure and do our math homework. What he doesn’t mention is that the Chinese team is holed up in its locker room, half the members juicing up for the big meet while the other half cut themselves and vomit into the toilet. Nor does he mention that their trainers are ex-Bulgarian gymnastics coaches who can’t set foot in the United States because they face arrest warrants for battery and child endangerment. Our team saw some of theirs cut through the woods when they thought we weren’t looking, but we can’t prove it to the referees, most of whom have been bought off by the People’s Central Committee in any event.

Friedman’s solution is that we deal with an oligarchical country that debases its own currency, routinely exports counterfeit and adulterated products with government complicity, and allows its workers to be treated in ways that would result in criminal indictments Stateside by eliminating all barriers to Chinese imports and busting our own asses to keep up. The only way that they’ll buy our state-of-the-art diesel locomotives is if we allow in their leaded steel. Lovely bargain, that.

And what are the terrible consequences if we slap on some tariffs, close the port gates on shoddy and dangerous products, and tell shyster companies from overseas to come back when they’ve happened across some business ethics? Will we starve and freeze to death? Friedman doesn’t answer this. He insinuates that second place will be calamitous, that we’ll be ruing the day that we decided to rest on our laurels once we see that India and China have left us in the dust. They’ll be super rich, and we’ll be, uh, gee, now, like, not so totally rich. They’ll be Finland, while we’ll be Estonia or, God forbid, Poland.

For an economics writer, Friedman isn’t so hot on numbers. Especially in a newspaper column, which doesn’t require the documentation that he needs for his books, he is adept at substituting cherrypicked anecdotes for statistics, which he usually doesn’t even include. Even his books are brimming with anecdotes that he makes sound less tangential than they actually are. As proof that American airports are shittier than foreign ones, he compares JFK to Pudong. Well, then, that proves it. Will he ever compare Sheremetyevo to Dulles? Of course not. He moans about our failure to invest in our infrastructure, missing things like the AirTrain, which someone with such an interest in JFK might have noticed at some point.

A lot of his points would be valid, even important, if he didn’t use such irrelevant, misleading anecdotes. JFK’s inferiority to Changi is clearly a First World Problem. Changi also happens to be the name and location of a prison where the Singaporean authorities deal with low-level drug dealers by snapping their necks with a rope, which would be a problem for anyone caught in those circumstances. Where Thomas Sowell, in his rare morally unhinged Asperger’s spectrum moments, celebrates Singapore for not being squeamish about executing people in addition to having some kick-ass hotels, Friedman completely ignores Singaporean penology and mental health while sporting wood over its infrastructure and business prowess. This is a country whose drug policies make America’s look other than evil by comparison, and one whose population makes ours look psychologically healthy. All threats of hangings and beatings and no play apparently makes Jack a very dull boy, indeed. It figures that mad scientists would go to such a place to do human cloning research that they can’t do in countries with things like moral compasses and a vague sense of human rights. We do not want to end up like those basket cases.

Of course, Singapore can’t hold a candle to Red China. Friedman thinks that we’re about to be handed our asses on a platter by a country where high-speed trains plunge off a goddamn viaduct into a farm field for no good reason and if you go outside you can’t fucking breathe. Should we seriously believe that such a country would beat us on an even, or shall we say flat, playing field?

George Will: 

George Will’s self-regard is palpable. You can cut it with a butter knife, like elemental sodium under oil, or butter, but no matter how big a chunk you cut off, there’s always more of it. He’s one of those rare birds whose self-regard spontaneously condenses on contact with a cold space or surface, like a sultry Alabama July breeze on a glass of sweet tea. This isn’t the most appropriate of analogies for a damn Yankee like him, but it works. Besides, like Lynyrd Skynyrd, he has been known to pander to the baser impulses of the South a time or two. Just don’t ask him to sing “Free Bird;” all you’ll get is a stony glare.

The subtext of Will’s columns is pretty obvious: “I, George Washington Toynbee Chesterton Lady Thatcher Lord Chesterfield Wilberforce Will, hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, but that liberals forfeit their equality through their sheer imbecility, along with imbeciles, who didn’t have a surfeit of equality in the first place; that England is the flower of civilization, aside from its non-Tory parts; that baseball is the most gentlemanly of sports, as long as I ignore such steroidally inflamed cretins as Maguire and Canseco; and that I am the premier and final arbiter of taste, morals and manners, in contrast to Bill Clinton, who has none.” That hangdog, face-sucking look comes from George Washington’s cherry walking stick, which George Will dutifully stores in his rectum.

Ouch, that was a low shot. George Will wouldn’t stoop to that level. A man of his stature and studiously proper decorum wouldn’t do such a thing as carp about Bill Clinton’s sex life after his own wife responded to his philandering by leaving his possessions out on their lawn, or compare a fever-swamp rabble with no sense of the commonweal such as the Tea Party to Lord Chesterfield, would he?

Oh, yes he would.

On the other hand, he’s an entertaining read, as long as one doesn’t mind a bit of smarm. He could be worse.

Ann Coulter: 

Words fail me. This vicious hag is beyond parody. She is practically beyond description. Sometimes one takes a look at a woman and wonders why she never married; with Coulter, one doesn’t.

When Piers Morgan interviewed her, it struck me that she had the accent and condescending mannerisms of John Kerry, except that she’s also a seething sadist. Her looks certainly don’t help, but they pale in comparison to her personality. As the Ghetto-Ass Bitches of 103rd Street say, “she UGLY! She KNOW she ugly! I’ll give her a whack on the head!”

As far as I’m concerned, Ann Coulter and Nancy Grace should be roommates at Sonoma State Hospital. It’s not as though she hasn’t accused her political adversaries of mental illness. And treason. Pity the staff at their funny farm; those are some difficult animals.

By the way, Ann Coulter is a cannibal. I just feel like saying that in the interest of equity.

Maureen Dowd: 

Feminism is a bit tricky to define. It means everything and nothing. Saying that there are different kinds of feminism is like saying that there are different kinds of drinking. There’s the kind of drinking where you nurse a pint with your mates, have a game of darts and a plate of fish and chips, and maybe rib your buddy the Arsenal fan because his team isn’t what it might be. There’s also the kind of drinking where you frantically pound whiskey shots with no chaser, abstain from food because it interferes with alcohol uptake, yell at the bartender and take an angry draft from your coat pocket flask whenever the service is slower than instantaneous, and glass a bugger in the jaw for wearing an Arsenal T-shirt. There’s gonna be a heartache tonight–and a toothache.

Likewise, there’s the kind of feminism that argues that a woman shouldn’t be denied employment as a police officer solely because some sworn dipshit, himself a year or two away from being drummed out of the force on a lateral transfer to Chula Vista because he’s a noxious annoyance, insists that female cops will do nothing but spread gossip, miss work for half of each month, and get knocked up before they’ve paid their dues; and there’s the kind of feminism that can’t decide whether to slander men as useless and irrelevant or malicious and positively destructive to womankind.

As feminists go, Maureen Dowd is one of the yobs. There are worse, but she’s pretty bad. By her reckoning, the way to elevate women is to debase men. No, thanks. Insinuating that men are a bunch of lying, cheating, sexist, no-good shits with terrible judgment serves merely to poison relations between the sexes, which might well be close to frictionless at the macro level if it weren’t for provocateurs like Dowd and her men’s rights counterparts, and to poison our politics by adding a gender gloss to the false dichotomy of Republicans versus Democrats, never the twain to meet. This false dichotomy has such currency in the US in large part because the craven elements of both major parties find it a useful way to entrench their own power by whipping their useful idiots into a frenzy over the purported evils of the opposition. Dowd’s contribution to the political discourse is to kick a sick, feeble man when he’s down.

The amazing thing is that so many leftists can’t imagine that her vitriol is one of the reasons that the sick man is still doubled over in a fetal position, vomiting blood into the street. The leftist may avert his gaze, he may cross the street, he may be discomfited enough to take another street to get away from the gore, but heaven forbid that he criticize an eminence of Dowd’s stature for giving the poor chap another boot in the gut. Another way of putting it is that when your hacks do it, they’re partisan thugs who could do to be duct-taped to a chair in the basement with a rag in the mouth, but when our hacks do it, they’re brilliant public intellectuals of unimpeachable character.

It’s about the rule of men, not the rule of law. The political reasoning involved is that of a five-year-old. It’s no wonder that we have such a tenuous grasp on self-government and willfully cede our sovereignty to plutocrats who regard us as children, fit either to be lied to or beaten with a razor strap when we decide to be heard as well as seen, or maybe fit to suffer a bit of both for our inferiority. Sure, we have the de jure structures and mechanisms of self-government, and a Constitution that protects these, but we don’t act it. No matter how many times the adults’ hour is called, the kiddos aren’t listening; they refuse to put aside childish things.

Admiral Yamamoto, pray for us.

David Broder: 

Maybe I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. On the other hand, by law the dead can’t be slandered.

In any event, I don’t have anything as malign to say about David Broder as I’ve had to say about his colleagues in the commentariat. He’s a dead white male now, but until last year he was a live white male who was syndicated in the Medford Mail-Tribune, among other papers. Like much of what was printed in the Trib, I didn’t read Broder because he was compelling; I read him because the paper was lying around the house and otherwise I probably would have been staring at the walls, lost in my own disorganization and ennui.

For Broder, politics was a horse race. An incredibly boring horse race. I suppose he found politics interesting, because had he not he probably could have gotten a cake job writing about sports or the weather instead, but any personal fascination certainly didn’t come through in his writing.

Broder’s great failure, one that he shared with many journalists but perfected in a way that few do, was his impulsive evenhandedness, or objectivity, as they call it in the business. It was impressive how unflappable Broder was when politicians proved themselves detached from reality, common decency or both. He seemed to view his role as commentator as the narrator of a game of chess, a dirty, Machiavellian game of chess, but almost always one that he called with all the fervor of a golf announcer. “Shh. James Carville just came in one under par on the tenth hole by concussing Karl Rove with a nine iron. I guess that’s, uh, what you’d call a handicap.” If Broder had the sense that moral issues were at stake, he did his best to hide it: “Some analysts are skeptical of Adolf Hitler’s ability to implement his ‘drown the Jews in Arthur Kill’ policy on account of New York’s large Jewish vote. Others, however, argue that the working-class Irish and Polish vote on Staten Island could be key, since those voters have a historical distrust of Jews and would most likely be the ones hired as Jew-drowners in the event that Hitler implements his plan….Meanwhile, Joseph Stalin has unveiled a new rural development platform called ‘QUEST,’ short for ‘Quick, everybody starve!’ Whether this policy will survive opposition from farm belt Congressmen remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen whether Stalin will roast Charles Grassley (R-IA) and eat him for dinner as a way of bargaining with Congress. The Ukrainian-American vote could also be a factor. In any event, it will be interesting.”

You can’t have everything in a columnist, but it would be nice to have ones with more backbone than a bowl of spaghetti.

Ruth Marcus: 

Get a load of this foul screed:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/emma-sullivans-potty-mouthed-tweet-has-a-lesson-for-all-of-us/2011/11/29/gIQAG6CEAO_story.html

What a bootlicking bitch. I’m going to add that Ruth Marcus blows a lot and also sucks for passive-aggressively insisting that teenagers be made to kowtow to politicians and school officials with a degree of servility that is repugnant to a free people.

It takes a lot for me to take a stand with Sam Brownback’s hecklers. I like the guy. He seems about as good a governor as we have these days. As a nation we need more people like him to defuse our cultural powderkegs and lead a public discourse worthy of mentally competent adults.

What we do not need is for such a governor’s staff to rat out a high school student to her principal for tweeting that the governor “sucks” because “#heblowsalot.” Our governors are our elected public servants, not our superintendents at the Carnegie steel works. Emma Sullivan’s contribution to Kansas politics was petulant and immature, but that’s no excuse to censor or punish her. Her speech was inherently political in nature and consequently subject to the most vigorous protections of the First Amendment. The gist of her tweet was that Brownback is a bad governor; if it isn’t our right as citizens to say such a thing, we’re no longer a free people.

Marcus didn’t consider that there might have been political motives for Sam Brownback’s decision to inflict himself on a high school assembly. The students at such assemblies don’t usually choose to attend. This doesn’t mean that Brownback committed child abuse for political gain, but it may mean that he took some undue advantage of them, and it most certainly means that the students have a particularly compelling right to complain about his appearance; public dissent is a way of “petitioning for the redress of grievances,” a right whose infringement the Founding Fathers didn’t regard kindly.

Marcus was pissed off that Sullivan emerged from the scandal unchastened by her school, supported by her family, and with a several-hundred-fold increase in her Twitter following, which sent the wrong message by encouraging disrespect for authority and tolerance of foul language. Also tolerant of foul language: Bill “I want my fucking cake!” Clinton; the difference in Clinton’s case was that he was the President of the United States yelling at the White House pastry chef for having thrown out some leftover cake from the previous night. W dropped his fair share of F-bombs, too, although not in such a civilly actionable manner.

Our politicians need close public oversight; like dogs, they’ll piss everywhere if they’re let off the leash without adequate obedience training. The Big Dog sure wasn’t housebroken. Emma Sullivan inadvertently subjected Sam Brownback and his staff to a measure of that oversight; she held the governor accountable by stirring up a scandal that forced him to show his constituents the respect he owed them as citizens with a Constitutional right to criticize their elected officials. For Brownback and other officials in his position, the object lesson is that photo-op speeches at public schools may turn into an impromptu Prime Minister’s Questions. The key difference is that in this case there’s no sacrosanct parliamentary tradition compelling the head of government to respond to the absurdities. On the other hand, if the governor’s henchman infringes the First Amendment rights of a student for criticizing the governor and the student and her community are properly jealous of their civil rights, it’ll be the governor, not the uppity student, writing the apology note.

Ruth Marcus needs to write one, too.

Nicholas Kristof: 

This is the point at which I become derivative. The criticisms that I’m about to level at Kristof aren’t my own; in fact, they contradict most of what I normally would have written about Kristof, since I haven’t normally regarded him as a fool or a fraud. The problem is that there seems to be strong evidence that he’s disordered and pernicious.

My shit-talking about Kristof is inspired by Maggie McNeill, who has repeatedly savaged him for being a repressed pervert with a savior complex who denies agency to girls in the Third World because he insists on saving them from imagined evils. McNeill’s broadsides are archived on her blog, the Honest Courtesan:

maggiemcneill.wordpress.com

(I’m too lazy to figure out how to insert links in the main body of text, and I don’t care. As I’ve mentioned before, this here isn’t a professional outfit. It’s a one-man amateur screed factory.)

Although I don’t share McNeill’s intense distaste for Kristof by a long shot, I can’t refute her arguments that he is disturbingly attracted to sexual violence and coercion, condescending towards foreign (especially Cambodian) women, and fixated on the idea of the West lifting the East, and the North the South, out of darkness and bondage. Kristof obviously has a case of the White Man’s Burden. Admittedly, bleeding-heart liberal versions of the White Man’s Burden sell copy at the Times, just like Brooks’ whoppers about unbelievably low prices at Applebee’s franchises in places that his readers will never visit.

Perhaps Kristof exaggerates to help his employer pay the rent. With a brand new white elephant headquarters across from the Port Authority, the Times has a bit of credit to pay off. This is why the Sunday edition now costs $6.00 and runs partial transcripts of NPR’s smart-ass Saturday morning quips about the week’s news. “Wait, wait, don’t–oh, fuck it, I already heard it yesterday.”

On the other hand, some of his accounts of brothel rescues are a bit too graphic. This isn’t to say that such news should be censored on grounds of indecency, but rather that devoting so many column inches to the gory details may be a bit gratuitous when equally horrific but more atrocious stories stateside are effectively ignored. Some of his columns are like Keith Morrison murder specials: titillating, perhaps, but let’s not kid ourselves about wallowing in the mire for purposes of edification.

Or, better yet, Chris Hansen predator traps. One thing I’ll say for Kristof is that he’s no Chris Hansen. Kristof I’d more or less trust to sit my house, dog or child; Hansen I’d trust to tie up my kids and pets in the basement, then rob me of my valuables on the way out. Some guys just need to get over their hangups, go to a jurisdiction where the age of consent corresponds to the age of puberty, and consort with semiliterate high school girls who sport Hollister. Otherwise, we’ve got a Reverend Dimmesdale on our hands.

Kristof seems to enjoy the damsel-in-distress motif a bit too much, especially if the damsel is Asian and pubescent. The white guy/Asian girl fetish is a common one, but it’s not one that the rest of us who don’t share it would like to be subjected to by a newspaper column. Thinking about what must be going through the mind of someone who writes such things, even for a second, makes it all the more disturbing for those of us who don’t like the appearance of power differentials. When Whitey rides in on a white horse to rescue Asian girls from sex slavery, we’ve got ourselves a power differential. The idea of Whitey sporting wood as a result, which McNeill insists Kristof does, is a tad sick. Of course, a lot of creepy old American men have a thing for Asian women, and probably young ones at that, because they’re submissive and don’t speak English all that well, but does that mean that the rest of us have to be exposed to the weird “me so hawny” relationship dynamics? For Kristof to focus so on Cambodian damsels in distress is the equivalent of Steve Lopez writing nothing but columns about afternoons slumming it with payday lenders, bail bondsmen and pool sharks on 103rd Street. Something might be learned from reading such garbage, but Lopez would rightly be called a seedy bastard for wallowing in civic disorder with ghetto-ass bitches, and his readers would rightly be called voyeurs for reading such pornographic material about a slum that otherwise wouldn’t interest them a bit.

McNeill’s most disturbing allegation is that the “rescue” organizations that Kristof shadows kidnap teenage girls and young women out of voluntary prostitution in order to remand them to semijudicial slavery in garment sweatshops. A similar thing, she writes, was done to whores in Victorian London, who were beseeched by Christian aid workers to give up prostitution, the most lucrative field available to them, and take up wage slavery in Dickensian factories.

Granted, as a retired prostitute who on the whole enjoyed her career, McNeill is more positively disposed to prostitution than the average American. Still, it’s clear that anti-prostitution sweeps in Cambodia are conducted in conditions that at the very least are conducive to a perfect storm of malevolent influences. We’re dealing with anti-human trafficking laws that the Cambodian parliament was effectively forced to pass on pain of loss of US foreign aid, enforced by rather dubious police and courts in a country that not two generations ago had to be pulled out of a cataclysmic genocide by Communist Vietnam. Cambodia’s government institutions aren’t exactly the flower of civil society. This is a country that is still recovering from Pol Pot.

Power hates a vacuum, so it stands to reason that foreign aid organizations would worm their way into this fray. This includes more than a few smarmy Christian NGOs eager to impose their sexual mores on a part of the world that they consider sexually lax and idolatrous on account of its Buddhism. If these organizations tried to pull the same shit in Poland or Finland, the prospective donors back home would bore of pictures of prosperous white people, and the locals allegedly in need of salvation would freely tell them to fuck off, with help from the civil authorities if necessary. Even Thailand, a poor country with pandemic official corruption and a recent history of paralyzing civil unrest, recently began an apparently impartial criminal investigation of a group of former Australian officials, including police officers, for running a child rescue scam that allegedly misrepresented as abducted into sex slavery children who were in fact enrolled in school in their home villages.

Is it a coincidence that the grandstanders, would-be saviors and religious sex scolds have descended so heavily on one of the worst basket cases in the region? The whole situation has the appearance of the most craven sort of opportunism: Thailand, Vietnam, China and Malaysia were too functional to let Whitey really cut loose, and Burma was run by junta wackos who didn’t admit foreigners for those purposes, which left Laos and Cambodia, so the aid organizations went with the country that had nearly been destroyed by a self-loathing member of its own intelligentsia within living memory. If you want to become really jaded, consider that this country appears to have even more ineffectual labor laws than Vietnam.

Yes, I’m being cynical, and rightly so, I’d say. There’s a real superiority complex at play in circumstances like these. Why else would American churches and their members still be so interested in sending mission groups to parts of Africa that have begun dispatching Christian missionaries in earnest to Europe? As I’ve mentioned, the Americans often have no idea what the hell is going on in their target countries, or even where the hell they’re going, which is why they do batshit things like get mixed up with parties to sectarian unrest in order to evangelize Muslim villages where they don’t speak a word of the indigenous language. Alien Aunt barely learned a word of Thai in the months that she hung out in a Chiang Mai orphanage, contemplating the virtues of Christian vagrancy, and I suspect that many of the Western aid workers who descend like locusts on Cambodia speak about as much Khmer as I do.

Maggie McNeill has pointed out that Kristof has a huge, devoted following of young American women. I’ve noticed the same thing. It seems to be an incipient personality cult, a smaller version of Obama’s we-are-the-change-we-believe-in useful idiots. Before that we had Baba Ram Dass, Jonestown, Synanon and the Rajneeshis. Lord have mercy. We don’t need another one.

On the other hand, McNeill has also speculated about Kristof’s masturbatory fantasies, and she has done so using crude, coquettish metaphors that I couldn’t have dreamed up. When I first read about “dates with Mrs. Palm and her five daughters,” all I could think was, who are these women? Did he just get divorced? If not, holy 7-way polygamy!

Radical premise: individual Cambodians have the agency to decide whether or not to prostitute themselves, and to whom. Would that their country had the institutions to help them assert their free agency against dirty-minded foreign meddlers.