Tuesday, August 19, 2014

David Brooks 101

There are a lot of aspiring David Brookses out there trying to scale Mount Media following the recipe (an admix of hippie slandering, lazy Villager Centrist sermonettes on what other people should be doing and massive historical revisionism) which Mr. Brooks has helped to perfect. But as any student of Brooksianism can tell you, it takes years of diligent study and practice to master the art of sharting all over observable public reality while keeping a very large stick up your ass, and nearly as long to learn to humbly preach the virtues of bravery, civic responsibility and integrity while cowering behind a mile-high wall of privilege, money and clout.

It is a long and crowded road to the top of Mount Media, and any trick one can glean from the maestro is always appreciated, which is why every time Mr. Brooks releases an update to his "Villager Knob Gobbling For Dummies" curriculum, y'all need to sit up and take notice.

Such as Friday.

On Friday Mr. Brooks delivered a twofer:  a Lesson in Laziness and a mini-master class on his One Weird Trick to Writing Successful Whig Fan Fiction.

First the epic, lazy bit, which was ably covered by Heather at Crooks and Liars:
DAVID BROOKS: I hope there is somebody in my paper investigating why the militarization happened. Were there contracts involved, somebody was getting — making a lot of money selling this equipment to police forces?

You may not know it. but David Brooks started off his career as a beat reporter -- a crime reporter -- in Chicago.  So he knows how to ask questions and take notes.  Now, 30 years later, (as I wrote last week) ."David Brooks can never never be fired, can write about anything he pleases as often as he pleases, job out the task of reading his hate mail to interns, lecture at colleges, Aspen or TED whenever he chooses, speak to large audiences every week on PBS and NPR, drop in on Meet the Press as the mood takes him and has the bottomless pockets of the New York Times at his disposal. In other words, he enjoys all the power the Beltway media world has to offer, and needs to worry about none of the consequences of using it."

And once again, David Brooks uses yet another gaping hole in our ship of state to demonstrated to the rest of the class the beauty of being David Brooks:

Of course the beauty of being David Brooks is that once you, David Brooks, have identified a problem -- especially a very large problem which your own Conservatism had a very big hand in creating --  you, David Brooks, need never be shy about stepping right up and insisting that someone other than David Brooks really needs to get in there and fix it. 

Whether it's fighting and dying in Mr. Brooks' Great Patriotic Wars or triaging the various follow-on catastrophes which his Great Patriotic Wars created or bearing the brunt of his crackpot economic schemes or being the guinea pig for one of his little social engineering experiments in character building -- you can always count on David Brooks to demand someone else get in there and do the hard, heavy lifting, because cleaning up another one of Conservatism's messes is a crappy job for other people.

His job, as David Brooks, is to sit on his ass sipping an indifferent chardonnay and spouting helpful suggestions about Humility and Character and National Greatness.

So that's the Lesson in Laziness, which for most instructors would be enough.  But not David Brooks.  This time he goes that extra mile to show his acolytes how to make decades of unsightly modern history magically disappear!

Watch closely...
DAVID BROOKS: ... As for the larger political thing, it’s almost unanimous. You look across left, right and center, people think it’s overreacting what happened in the nights subsequently. And that’s, a libertarian suspicion of really forceful and violent government. Liberals tend to I guess be suspicious of police power, especially against minority communities.

But for conservatives and especially traditional conservatives, there’s a community thing going on here. The traditional conservatives, led by a thinker named James Q. Wilson, many years ago, was to believe in community policing, getting cops out of cop cars and actually interacting with the locals.

And so that’s the traditional conservative position, that you don’t want to erect walls...
Did you catch that?

By skipping completely over actual Conservatives as they exist here and now in their tens of millions and instead shifting automatically into Whig Fan Fiction mode to opine fartily about an exotic and virtually extinct species called "traditional conservatives", Mr. Brooks once again simply snipped out a big festering hunk of modern history that makes him look like a lying hack so that he could run a variation on his usual "Both Sides" scam and pretend that, on the subject of Ferguson, MO, there was virtual unanimity "across left, right and center."

To her credit, Ruth Marcus very gingerly pointed out that, no, there was actually a very clear split on the Right between between Rand Paul and pretty much everyone else in the GOP:
RUTH MARCUS:  And so I think that to the extent there is this blurring of kind of liberal-libertarian lines, it’s a piece of a very interesting strain within the party. And I think you are a little bit underselling it, David, because there is this tough-on-crime aspect to your party.
And because she had the bad taste to remind the audience that the Republican Party is, in fact, David Brooks' Party, thing got very uncomfortable there for a minute:

([Incredibly uncomfortable] LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS (The PBS transcript does not have this but the video clearly shows this is what Mr. Brooks' says next)::   Who are you calling "we" Kemosabe?


RUTH MARCUS: I’m sorry. I’ll take that back.

RUTH MARCUS: You know, when we’re done, we can hug it out.


HARI SREENIVASAN: We will get to that in a minute. All right.

RUTH MARCUS: But in any event, Rand Paul’s views on things like marijuana legalization, on same-sex marriage, on other issues that might attract, bring — not to David’s party, but to the Republican Party, to attract some younger voters, I think is a very interesting thing that my colleague Dan Balz did point out in The Washington Post this morning.

DAVID BROOKS: I would just say, Mr. Republican, I have my mace and my shield and my armored vehicle afterwards.

Any malfunctioning institution which devotes this amount of energy and effort making sure that nobody ever speaks openly about the painfully obvious source of its dysfunction is broken beyond repair.

Monday, August 18, 2014



Diogenes of Sinope, as I'm sure you clever dogs know, is most famous for walking around with a lamp in broad daylight. And while, personally, such naked, public, prop-driven straight-line begging has always seemed to me more Susquehanna Hat Company than Soren Kierkegaard, Diogenes is nonetheless remembered 2400 years later as explaining that he was "looking for an honest man".

So, nice story.

But what to do about Diogenes' opposite?  What to do about the Senegoid's among us? Those who devote enormous resources seeking far and wide, looking for amoral teevee-friendly monsters for the expressed purpose of giving them the largest platform possible to tell the most despicable lies imaginable?

Media Matters reminds us that the reason Roger Ailes put lying scumbag Sean Hannity in front of a teevee camera in the first place is precisely because Hannity had already built an impressive lying scumbag resume on local college radio:
In his new book The Loudest Voice in the Room, New York magazine journalist Gabriel Sherman describes the start of Sean Hannity's career as a conservative radio personality, beginning with an hour-long morning call-in show at KCSB, the UC Santa Barbara college station. The short-lived show was canceled in 1989 after Hannity made a number of extreme anti-gay remarks during a segment featuring Gene Antonio, author of the book The AIDS Cover-up? The Real and Alarming Facts About AIDS. According to Sherman:
In April 1989, Hannity invited the virulent anti-gay activist Gene Antonio on the air to promote his already widely discredited book, The AIDS Cover-up? The Real and Alarming Facts About AIDS. A Lutheran minister without scientific training, Antonio peddled paranoid fictions about the epidemic. He wrote that the virus could be transmitted by sneezes and mosquito bites and that the Centers for Disease Control and the American Medical Association conspired to cover up the "truth." At the opening of his hour-long interview, Hannity said: "I'm sick and tired of the media and the homosexual community preventing us from getting the true, accurate information about AIDS in this day." He went on to describe The AIDS Cover-up? as an "excellent book" that was "so full of facts" and added, "if you want the real truth about this deadly, deadly disease, he's not afraid to say what the homosexuals don't want you to hear." He gave his audience Antonio's mailing address, where they could order "autographed copies" and write to find out about "places where homosexuals can go for help if they want to change." [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 239]
Decades ago Roger Ailes made it his mission in life to aim the biggest gun he could lay his hands on right at the heart of American democracy and fire and fire and fire until it was dead.

Happy (Almost) 40th Anniversary to Chico and the Man

Thank goodness all of the racial problems that beset us during the 1970s are far behind us now.

And a sad reminder that, no matter your station in life or your degree of material success, when depression comes it can hit like a sniper.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Town Has Turned To Dust

Michael Brown's autopsy verifies what everyone except Conservative media has already figured out.

David Brooks' 2015 TED Talk

Graphic now.
Words later.
Very tired.
Suffice it to say, in addition to being very lazy, Mr. Brooks is also gutless.

I Keep Forgetting That Every Single Fucking Thing Is Always About Obama and Drones

Thank god David Sirota:

 is always on-hand to remind us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Professional Left Podcast #245

“I breakdown in the middle and lose my thread.
No one can understand a word that I say.
When I breakdown just a little and lose my head,
Nothing I try to do can work the same way.”

-- Alan Parsons Project, Breakdown

Da' money goes here:

Today In Late-Breaking Chuck Todd News...

Politico has this Prestone-worthy addition to their already-vast treasury of "Terrifying words they somehow think are reassuring" (highlighted for your ease of use):
Three weeks from Sunday, Chuck Todd, the political obsessive with a knack for polling data and a love of “the game,” will take the reins at NBC’s “Meet the Press” and try, against all odds, to prove a morning news show can still set the national agenda.

Todd won’t need to prove anything to Washington. This town’s political-media establishment has already sanctified him...
We are so screwed. 

In Lieu Of Flowers...

As summer winds to a close and chunks of the world from Ferguson to Fallujah continue to come loose, catch fire and fly apart, Mr. Brooks has decided to sit down at his keyboard and type out the most uncontroversial, inoffensive column one could imagine: a tribute to the late, great Lauren Bacall.

Because who didn't love Lauren Bacall, right?  And so who but a complete, contrarian asshole could possibly take offense at the idea of Mr. Brooks writing a nice column entitled "The Bacall Standard", right?

But between the idea of writing a tribute to Ms. Bacall and the actually typing out and publishing of such a thing, there's a hitch.  Specifically, the ideology which Mr. Brooks spends most of waking hours fanatically marketing -- mealy-mouthed Both Siderism -- is in direct conflict with the entire life and career of the real, flesh-and-blood Lauren Bacall.

In the Lauren Bacall obits I’ve seen, there’s only fleeting glance at her politics. She had the guts and stamina of a classic New York-born Jewish left-liberal. So remember her not only as Humphrey Bogart's sultry siren in To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, but also as a kickass fighter, the only child of a divorced, dirt-poor single immigrant mother. During Hollywood's 1950s blacklist purges, when studios denied work to alleged Communist sympathizers and so many in show business ran for cover, Betty Joan Perske Weinstein-Bacal (as Lauren was originally known), pushed her new husband, Bogart, into establishing the Committee for the First Amendment to denounce the blacklist and protect its victims (who were more Jews and liberals than “reds”). CFA was a cross section of the plucky, upstanding Hollywood left: Danny Kaye, John Huston, Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn etc.

Bacall, a mere ingénue just starting out, risked her young career to stick her neck out, as did Bogart, who wanted to vote Republican until Bacall persuaded him otherwise...
For the whole of her life Lauren Bacall stayed a true-blue New York left-of-center liberal Democrat, lobbying later on for Adlai Stevenson and Bobby Kennedy. Or as she proudly boasted in a late interview, “I’m anti-Republican. A liberal. The L-word!”
See the problem?

Like so most of the rest of the everyday realities in the real world in which you and I live, the life and work of the real Lauren Bacall (and the real Humphrey Bogart) cannot be reconciled in any way with the Whig Fan Fiction that Mr. Brooks now writes for a living.

And so instead of using his incredibly privileged position at the New York Times to directly take on any of the problems with which we little people out here in the real world are grappling...or even a column which pays honest tribute to the actual Lauren Bacall and the life she actually lived...instead we get a movie review of The Big Sleep.

Five paragraphs about Raymond Chandler:
I believe the really good people would be reasonably successful in any circumstance,” the detective writer Raymond Chandler wrote in his notebook in 1949. If Shakespeare came back today, “he would have refused to die in a corner.”

Shakespeare, Chandler theorized...

Chandler had a tough, urban sensibility...

Chandler was not particularly kind to women, though...

Vivian Rutledge, the lead female character in the movie version of Chandler’s “The Big Sleep,”...
Then three paragraphs about the traits of a Raymond Chandler character which Lauren Bacall played in one movie:
The lead character, played by Bacall, emerges from an ambiguous past...

She projects a hardened wisdom about the way the world works, and an ironic gaze...

The movie’s plot is famously incomprehensible. But you get to watch Vivian meet her equal...
Then five paragraphs of quotes copies more or less directly from from the IMDb, including the most famous exchange in the movie:
Bacall:“So you’re a private detective. I didn’t know they existed, except in books, or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotel corridors.”

Bogart:I’m not crazy about yours. ... I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. I don’t like them myself. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them long winter evenings.”

Bacall: “Speaking of horses, I like to play them myself. But I like to see them work out a little first. See if they’re front-runners or come-from-behind. ... I’d say you don’t like to be rated. You like to get out in front, open up a lead, take a little breather in the back stretch and then come home free.”

Bogart: “You’ve got a touch of class, but I don’t know how far you can go.”

Bacall: “A lot depends on who’s in the saddle.”
Then a couple of lines of yadda yadda about "moral sensibilities" and, boom!, you can knock off for the weekend early.

As I have mentioned many times, I am a great admirer of Raymond Chandler's work.  Longtime readers know I have, in fact, used Mr. Chandler as a big fish with which to slap Mr. Brooks around once or twice.  Even longertime readers may also remember this is not the first time we have caught Mr. Brooks trying appropriate the work of a master of the hardboiled detective genre ("Sam Spade at Starbucks") and wham it square-peg-round-hole fashion into his bullshit Both Sides dogma ("I Don't Mind A Reasonable Amount Of Trouble")

(Pro tip:  When Mr. Brooks breaks out word "dappled" -- as in "Every person is dappled with virtue and vice." and "[A noir hero] assumes that everybody is dappled with virtue and vice..." -- keep your hand on your wallet.)

So if Mr. Brooks wants to write a column about Raymond Chandler, well that's fine by me.

Or if Mr. Brooks wants to write a lazy, cut-and-paste review of a terrific 68-year-old movie, well, that's fine by me too.

But don't think for a minute that no one noticed the fact that none of that has shit-all to do with the real life of a real, Liberal person named Lauren Bacall.

Now am I attempting to tell Mr, Brooks his duties?

Golly no!  As Marlowe says in The Big Sleep, I'm just having fun trying to guess what those duties are.

However, as long as I have your attention, I do have one more damn thing to add, which is the same damn thing I wrote two years ago when Mr. Brooks was trying to turn Sam Spade into a "No Labels" spokesmodel:
Chandler was famously outspoken about what a Chandler hero looked like:
Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. 
Raymond Chandler, November 1945 
Yes, in the murky, fallen literary universe of the hard-boiled detective, shady, contingent bargains are often quickly struck (and just as often quickly violated) all the time between shady, contingent people.

God knows, there is absolutely nothing wrong with looking for life-lessons between the covers of books, or even finding a few by tagging along behind Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe, but however much Mr. Brooks may delude himself, building a career out of siding with monsters, stooging for the powerful and defending the indefensible, as Mr. Brooks has done, does not a "noir hero" make.

And no matter how dappled the lighting, the is no mistaking the clear lines between the "right guys" who (often reluctantly) end up taking the side of the underdog and fighting for something resembling justice against the deadfalls, stacked decks and moral chaos of the world they live in

and the scuttlefish, gunsels, greed-heads and cold-eyed killers whose first love is power

and who will chase that Black Bird so far down into darkness that they become the creators of the deadfalls, stacked decks and moral chaos

of the world they live in.

By the way, if you missed my recent fundraiser, don't worry:  I am more than happy to take your dough anytime!

Here is the PayPal button should you wish to make a contribution.


Or, if you prefer using the U.S mail, you can send a check made payable to and care of
The Professional Left Podcast 
P.O. Box 9133
Springfield, IL 62704

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Clothes Make The Man

And the mine-resistant armored battle-wagon make the martinet.

From Slate:
... As the New York Times notes, “The ubiquity of SWAT teams has changed not only the way officers look, but also the way departments view themselves. Recruiting videos feature clips of officers storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons.” Put simply, when you give anyone toys, you have to expect they’ll play with them.

That is how we get images like the ones in Ferguson, where police officers brandish heavy weapons and act as an occupying force. We should expect as much when we give police departments military weapons. Already—when it comes to predominantly black and brown communities—there’s a long-standing culture of aggressive, punitive policing. Add assault weapons and armored vehicles, and you have a recipe for the repressive, violent reactions that we see in Ferguson, and that are likely inevitable in countless other poor American neighborhoods.

Meet the Press, Episode IV: A New Host

It is a period of civil war at the Mouse Circus.
Upstart copycats, striking
from a both sides of the dial, have won
their first ratings victory against
the arteriosclerotic Meet the Press 

During the battle, competing networks
managed to steal secret
plans to the Meet the Press' secret weapon:
an impregnable fortress of 
Beltway Conventional Wisdom,
with enough power
to destroy an entire country....

From Politico:
Chuck Todd to replace David Gregory on 'Meet The Press'


Chuck Todd, the NBC News chief White House correspondent and political director, will replace David Gregory as moderator of "Meet The Press," network sources confirmed early Thursday afternoon in the wake of a CNN report.

In Todd, NBC News is hoping it can restore the show with the passion and insider credibility it had under Tim Russert, Gregory's predecessor and Todd's mentor. Todd, who rose to fame as editor in chief of The Hotline, is a political obsessive and extremely knowledgable about all manner of politics and policy matters.

Gregory, by contrast, did not seem very engaged with politics and policy, the bread and butter of Sunday public affairs programming. He was also widely disliked within the organization, and his ambition and vanity rubbed important colleagues at NBC the wrong way. Under his watch, NBC’s once-dominant Sunday show fell to the bottom of the ratings race...
From CNN:
"Meet the Press:" Gregory out, Todd in
By Brian Stelter  @brianstelter August 14, 2014: 1:32 PM ET

NBC will name Chuck Todd the new host of "Meet the Press" as soon as Thursday afternoon, according to people with direct knowledge of the network's plans.

The sources confirmed widespread speculation that David Gregory, who moderated the show for the past six years, will be replaced by Todd, and is expected to leave NBC.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the record. One said that the transition will be swift -- so swift that Gregory will not even host "Meet the Press" this weekend.
From driftglass:

Dear Mr. Ailes,

Thank you so much for the roses and lovely card! 
The people here continue to be mean to me and refuse to believe I am Superman.
Enclosed you will find a copy of my resume along with personal references from Rich Lowrey, John McCain and Karl Rove...

Dispatches From The New Confederacy

It was...remarkably unremarkable to watch Roger Ailes' employees take a break from their wall-to-wall paranoid hysteria over that swarthy horde of armed, jackbooted Obama-led thugs who are always on the verge of coming to steal your freedumb...

...to give a soothing reach-around to a genuine, lily-white jackbooted thug who is actually, brazenly blasting freedom off the streets of Ferguson, MO.

If you can keep your lunch down, Heather at Crooks and Liars has the video:

After decades of aggressive self-lobotomizing, the Right has bred a political base so pliant that it can easily absorb frequent, tectonic changes in the Wingnut Party Line without ever noticing that the Fox-approved slogans they are chanting today are 180 degrees in opposition to from the Fox-approved slogans with which they were filling your email in-box yesterday.

Watching this phenomenon play out in real-time over and over again has become grotesquely, fascinatingly and depressingly predictable.

Are You a Good Citizen?

2014 will go into the books as one more year when Americans were taught one more brutal civics lesson on police-community relations in blunt, clear Black

and White:

(Ferguson, MO on the left; Bundy Ranch on the right)

Still Waiting, Ctd.


From the Chicago Tribune:
Police fire tear gas into crowd, detain reporters during protests in Ferguson, Mo.

Police in Ferguson, Missouri, fired tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs to disperse some 350 protesters late Wednesday, the fourth night of racially charged demonstrations after police shot to death an unarmed black teen.

Some demonstrators hurled rocks at police as others scattered, while smoke engulfed the area. A Reuters reporter saw two young men preparing what looked like petrol bombs in a bus-stop shelter, their faces covered by bandannas. Police said protesters had thrown petrol bombs at officers.

Protesters have gathered every night since Saturday when 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death in the mostly black suburb of St. Louis, during what authorities said was a struggle over a gun in a police car. Some witnesses say he was outside the car with his hands up.

Police have deployed camouflage-clad officers in body armor, including one manning a rifle on a tripod atop an armored car, to Ferguson.

"I've had enough of being pushed around because of the color of my skin. I'm sick of this police brutality," said one protester, who gave only his first name, Terrell, 18. "I'm going to keep coming back here night after night until we get justice."

Alderman, reporters detained 

A St. Louis alderman, Antonio French, was among some 10 people arrested on Wednesday evening, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reported. French was released Thursday morning without having to post bail, telling the Post-Dispatch he had received no paperwork from police, nor explanation for his detention...
I strongly urge the Ferguson PD to keep the plight of Ferguson's oppressed citizens in the nation's headlines by continuing to ignore the advice of the most famous Missourian in American history:
"Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." -- Mark Twain