January 26, 2015

This is going to slip through the cracks, on account of the country's Major Media Center, and a bunch of other East Coast cities, staring down what seems to be a sizable blizzard which will be crippling the city shortly.  Don't forget to stock up on snacks!  Can't bingewatch without snacks.

But this story ran this morning, and it should be on all of our radars, because it's something that's going to affect all of us, whether personally or in the care of our parents/loved ones.  What has happened is that nursing homes have found an exciting new way to make the lives of our elders miserable, as they petition for guardianship of clients late on payment:

Brett D. Nussbaum, a lawyer who represents Mary Manning Walsh and many other nursing homes, said Mr. Palermo's devotion to his wife was irrelevant to the decision to seek a court-appointed guardian in July, when the billing dispute over his wife's care reached a stalemate, with an outstanding balance approaching $68,000.

"The Palermo case is no different than any other nursing home bill that they had difficulty collecting," Mr. Nussbaum said, estimating that he had brought 5,000 guardianship cases himself in 21 years of practice. "When you have families that do not cooperate and an incapacitated person, guardianship is a legitimate means to get the nursing home paid."

The case in point, that of the Palermos, is one where the wife is incapacitated, the husband disputes a sudden increase in co-pays, and the nursing home, Mary Manning Walsh, tries to intimidate the husband by suing for guardianship of the wife.

Which is as fucking heinous as it sounds.

Anecdotally, I know that the elder care industry is insidious and makes the health care/insurance industry look like a bunch of freaking angels.  I've heard many a story in which in order to enroll a loved one into certain facilities you'd have to grant a lien on the family home.  Which sounds pretty draconian?

Unless of course you compare that to suing for guardianship of your grandma.

Posted at 10:24 AM

January 21, 2015

Gosh remember way back in the good old days when we all had our own websites and we'd sit there and live-blog the State of the Union speech, all snark and glamor?  Well those days may be long gone, but I did make a point to catch it last night, maybe out of nostalgia.

Clearly the biggest takeaway is encapsulated in this epic burn — the classic "I know, I won both of 'em" moment.  The president did not go into this giant (meaningless?) media moment looking to signal compromise or weakness or contrition.  If anything, he was flexing territorially, something along the lines, "You guys can talk about your Republican Congress all you want, but I still got this podium and I still got this office, and most of all, I got my veto."

Speaking of which, the other noteworthy thing I came away from these proceedings was that the GOP response to the SOTU, for the past six years, has been a spectacular showcase of just how venal and small-thinking and, ultimately, clumsy the GOP is.  First of all, they have made a big show of bending over backwards to allow some non-white male up-n-comer to be the public face for the night, which is a ploy so transparent that it is an embarrassment to honest devious people everywhere.  And, I don't know whether its nerves or bad luck or just a God with a sense of humor, but these speakers, in the one night they are allowed in front of the cameras, never fail to come off as anything but wooden and sometimes downright not-very-skilled-at-public-speaking.  Marco Rubio nervously sipping water, Bobby Jindal doing his Nathan Thurm impression, Michele Bachmann (speaking for the Tea Party and not the GOP FWIW) strangely focusing at some point to the right of the camera.  These are not oratorial high marks.

This time around the speaker, Joni Ernst, senator from Iowa, managed not to get her foot stuck in the mop bucket or anything, but the speech she bloodlessly read weirdly kept making continuing reference to the "Republican Congress," and once even went so far as to refer to (I'm paraphrasing) the American people choosing a Republican Congress.

OK.  This is technically not untrue, even though it's clearly not how that works, duh.  And maybe the instinct here is to diminish the presidency by attributing the entirety of the legislative branch of the U.S. government as unilaterally Republican, and therefore co-equal to the executive branch?  But, between you and me, why on earth would you take credit for an entity that polls in the low teens approval-wise, has accomplished nothing in four years, and will clearly accomplish nothing in the next two?

I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time?

But overall the president came out swinging, choosing to negotiate from strength and not weakness, and now the GOP has a whole lot of lookin'-busy to do before they are found to be all hat and no cattle.

Posted at 10:49 AM

January 15, 2015

I was reading this David Leonhardt piece on what we're now calling the great wage slowdown (and how to solve it), and a thought came to mind.  (Which was neat!)

It was triggered by this passage:

Already, Democrats and Republicans have signaled that the wage slowdown will be at the center of their campaigns. Hillary Clinton often says, "It feels harder and harder to get ahead," while Jeb Bush, in a nod to upward mobility, has named his fund-raising operation "Right to Rise." [Emphasis mine.]

So we all know that real wages have basically been frozen since the Reagan administration.  We're all working harder for less, and meanwhile the earnings at the top (the one percent, if you will) have exploded.  Presto!  No more middle class.

What needs to happen is that wages need to increase, for the bottom and middle tiers.  And while it's fun to listen to smart people talk about how the government can fix this, I'm coming to realize that the entire concept of upward mobility is... pernicious?

What we need is an increase across the board.  And what upward mobility is predicated on is the idea that there will always be a bottom, there will always be this untouchable class to escape from.  It's essential to the whole bootstrap mythos of the Republican Party.  To seek upward mobility is to validate the Republican self-regard as the Salvaged Remnant.

I'm just bringing this up because I think that in my head I had been conflating upward mobility with that bigger income redistribution that is required, when what I should have been doing is thinking that upward mobility is icky.  Well, it is until it is redefined as entire communities moving upward, and not just isolated individuals.

But anyhow, the article was written because the Center For American Progress today released their Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, which I am adding to my reading list.  You should too!

Posted at 10:26 AM

January 14, 2015

Oh hey look the NYC City Council had a little hearing that would cap "surge pricing" in the taxi pimp industry at 100%, and Uber sent someone to say thee nay:
Uber said in a statement: "Dynamic pricing ensures Uber remains a reliable ride in communities during times of peak demand. Our in-app features are designed to communicate the pricing repeatedly and require approval by the user before any trip is requested."

Okay, we could probably spend the rest of our natural lives unpacking the doublespeak of the New Disrupters or the Silicon Alley Robber Barons or whatever we're calling them, but I really intensely dislike Uber and their dingbat Objectivism, so let's give this one a shot.

Let's start with an easy one: "dynamic pricing" is doublespeak for "price gouging," or, as others call it, "profiteering."  Yeah sure we live in a late capitalism world, no getting around it, but even in this relaxed free market we have price controls.  We forbid monopolies, and we frown on cornering the market.  And when it comes to certain transportation concerns, we regulate the hell out of them, up to and including how they can determine their price.  This is why Uber is bad: Uber skips all these regulations and then pretends that sunshine is streaming from its ass.  You say dynamic pricing, I say we have always been at war with Eastasia.

Moving on.  Use of the verb "ensures" is a deft little slight of hand — Uber's profit motive is not behind their naked price gouging, oh no!  Actually it ensures that Uber is able to provide a service and improve the quality of life to its happy endusers!  The sad thing is not that Uber feels compelled to deploy this sort of rhetoric, but rather that they actually think it true.  But this whole sentence hinges on the presupposition that Uber is currently a "reliable ride in communities."  Neat!  Not, a service available to potential customers, but rather reliable ride in communities.  So I guess that if you're looking for either one of those unreliable rides, or if you don't live in a community, Uber is not for you.

You know what's really reliable and really serving a community where I live?  Public transportation.  But that is a whole 'nuther I guess.

And then the final sentence, which is a shifty little The devil made me wear this dress!  Call it price gouging, call it the unmitigated charitable munificence of Uber, whichever: it ain't Uber's fault because the user (which is what we know call a mark instead of a customer) knew about it and agreed to it and paid for it.  So there.  Blaming the market demo — subterfuge!  But Uber is not being accused of fraud; it's being accused of price gouging.  Which charge stands whether the umbrellas sell during the downpour or not.

This is obviously the latest iteration of the newspeak that grew out of the age when people not only ran corporations but then started writing books about how to run corporations to the point that thinking about running a corporation is acceptable family dinner table conversation.  Certainly it will evolve further.  But there is a messianic streak that underlies these assertions, be it the protestations of Uber or Airbnb calling normal people like you and me to defend it from the depredations of the Attorney General.  These new own-nothing-but-code companies, valuated in the tens of billions, are not satisfied just to pretend like they don't care about making money — they insist on suffering the delusion that what they are doing is important, and they are making a difference.

Which is a load of hooey.

Posted at 10:50 AM

January 12, 2015

This op-ed from last week was perhaps the low point in public cop discourse.

Public cop discourse?  Well, here in NYC we have a little problem as every cop other than Chief William Bratton hates our mayor, Bill de Blasio.  Now, cops have historically shown distrust/disdain for Hizzoner, even to Rudy Giuliani, who is now Cop Apologist Number One.  But Bill de Blasio is a big old flaming liberal, so... well actually the op-ed is titled "Why We're So Mad at de Blasio" and it is written by a retired cop.  So, according to this retired cop, the reason cops don't like de Blasio so much is because, well, he hurt their feelings.

No, really!  He pals around with Al Sharpton, whom the cops hate, and after the Eric Garner non-indictment, the mayor mentioned how he's told his son, who is bi-racial, to be careful around the cops.  And every cop knows that's a fact of everyday life here in the five boroughs, but they're mad because, yes, the mayor sad it out loud.

To paraphrase, "Policing is hard, our wives worry about us, the mayor is mean to us and we're going to hold our breaths until we turn not-blue."  Yes, that is an intentionally snarky paraphrase.  But it is not off the mark.

The author, sounding like a character that walked out of a Mike McAlary column, also creates this fabulous straw man who is accusing the de Blasio haters of being self-pitying, and then takes a deep-ass dive into an Olympic-sized pool filled with actual self-pity:

The gestures of protest by many officers toward Mayor Bill de Blasio -- including turning their backs to him when he appeared at both officers' funerals -- have been characterized in some quarters as squandering the credibility of the department and reeking of self-pity.

When I hear this sort of thing, my blood pressure goes through the roof. Mr. de Blasio is more than any other public figure in this city responsible for feelings of demoralization among the police. It did not help to tell the world about instructing his son, Dante, who is biracial, to be wary of the police, or to publicly signal support of anti-police protesters (for instance, by standing alongside the Rev. Al Sharpton, a staunch backer of the protests). If there is any self-pity involved, which I doubt, it is only because we lack respect from our elected officials and parts of the media. It has taken two dead cops for some people to take a step back and realize what a difficult job cops have.

Look, let's all agree that being a cop is hard.  Even Andy Griffith had to make a tough decision now and again, and there was no telling when Otis was finally going to lose it and suicide-by-Barney.  But there ain't nothing written that cops have to be respected.  Oh wait there is!  From stop and identify statues to "interfering with a police officer" there are all sorts of codified respect for cops.  And as to that other sort of respect, well, that shit is earned, whether from the general public or from elected officials.  As far as the general public goes, NYPD may have Staten Island and white Brooklyn all wrapped up, but the rest of us go on results and not some "law and order" instinct carried over from the 1970s.

And as to the mayor, well the NYPD has been carrying on a sub rosa anti-de Blasio campaign since before the election.  The idea (conveyed in the op ed) that nothing changes until de Blasio makes some sort of gesture is ridiculous — PBA needs to stop spreading rumors about Bill's daughter.

I have no problems with cops.  I have friends who are cops, and whatever racist cadre of the PBA that thinks this is still Fort Apache The Bronx will hopefully retire and die off soon enough.  (A great New Yorker's perspective on awesome cops?  John Lurie's.)  But the source of this flap is this weird, kinda unmanly cop privilege, expecting hero worship for a (sometimes dangerous) day's work.  Think is, heroes don't demand respect.  Only bullies do.

Posted at 10:29 AM

January 8, 2015

Remember a little more than a week ago, when we were all cheering on the looming new year, happy to put a stake through the heart of 2014?  Well hello, 2015.

No need to link anything concerning the murders in the offices of "Charlie Hebdo" as if you've not heard of them then you are deliberately avoiding the news.  Just horrible horrible news to wake up to, first for the meaninglessness of the loss, and second for the implications.

And then we had a day of social media, and it was bewildering, even as it settled into camps.  There were those that took the murders to be yet another incidence of some world conflict between faiths, and there were those who, out of excusable outrage, took to mocking of the faith of the murderers, and then there those who made self-serving stands for alternately freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.  I have differing levels of problems with all of those, but, as they say, who cares?  The most poignant, perhaps, were the scores who posted simply, "Je suis Charlie", which is about as simple a declaration of support and sympathy as you can imagine, and used in the public vigils in cities across the globe.  Of course the cynic in you can argue that, actually, no, you are decidedly not Charlie, but nice job making it all about you, but intentions being what they are, etc.

And I'm not even talking about the trolls, who have settled into the discourse like shabby furniture, predictably lumpy and smelling of cat piss.  I mean, technically, Chuck Johnson actually is Charlie, and yes, France has a troubling history/present concerning the freedom of religion (i.e., anti-semitism is banned, but so is wearing a burqa), but maybe the time to bring that up is not while families are still IDing the corpses.  But even everyone else, the saddened, the earnestly upset, and ultimately, the vocal, are hobbled by the constraints of their own personal hiveminds.  It's a tapestry of confusion and self-righteousness, with small chairfights breaking out in the interstices.  You want desperately to gaze upon this and be filled with a swelling love of humanity and its resilience and compassion and that's all kind of in there somewhere.  You keep telling yourself.  As you stare down a road paved with best intentions.

And it's not just intentions just contribute to this, but rather the tenor of our age.  Let's accept that the world we live in now requires us to first have an opinion, and then immediately find the affinity group to join in solidarity over this opinion, and then fav each other to death.  It's almost as if no tragic event with enough resonance to circle the planet can be said to have happened unless enough people feel the need to take to the streets over it.

But ultimately, it was a terrible day to be on the Internet, as the majority of users inspired to comment on the tragedy were hammers mistaking a variety of things as nails.  Personally I think that terrorists have exactly as much power as you give them, which is why I choose to call them murderers, because they ain't nothing but.

It was a day of bringing out the worst in the best of us.  And ultimately, the murderers got what what they wanted: to catch the attention of the world, and to be thought of as something bigger, something greater, than murderers.

Posted at 10:49 AM

January 5, 2015

This entire piece is worth a read (if a bit stingy with the details) about this modern-day disruptor of the art world.  It is morbidly fascinating to see members of my generation take the Move Fast and Break Shit credo to its logical and vulgar conclusion.  In this case, one idiosyncratic and voluble person is trying to upend the fine art market by cornering the market in young talent.  How so?  Well, identify hot, social media friendly Millennial artist, buy their entire inventory, and then snag them in a 21st Century version of patronage — dude pays for materials, overhead, living expenses, etc., and dude owns future output.

(This is where the story gets a bit hazy.  There is much winking and nodding to this patronage relationship, but there is not much in the way of reported facts.  We are left to surmise, which may be a mistake.)

But mostly I'm sharing this because, in it, I learned of what is being called "post-Internet art," which I'll just let the speculator/patron in question, Stefan Simchowitz, explain himself:

Simchowitz uses the term as a generational marker to describe how art history has been "flattened" for artists of a certain age. "When they typed in 'tree' " in a search engine, Simchowitz explained, "they got a thousand pictures of a tree: a picture of a tree made in the 18th century, a tree made last year, a cartoon of a tree. You have this flattening of time." To the extent that "post-Internet" sometimes defines a sensibility, you could say that it's characterized by positivity, the melding of satire and admiration, an emphasis on popularity over exclusivity and an uncomplicated reverence for fame and success.

Now I know that this sounds silly to you and me — describing an artistic movement on the terms of the availability of reference — but then again we all remember post-Encyclopedia-Britannica art, in which all the art was of things from foreign countries, and in alphabetical order.

Plus also this concept of post-Internet art is as lazy and muddle-headed as every single other little dingleberry of jargon that has found shelter in the mouth of someone disrupting something or otherwise begging a bro-VC for some seed capital that I thought I'd dump it out on the carpet here so we call all stare at it in awe.

I mean, it's not even a mild misuse of an existing word or phrase, like innovation or inflection point.  It's like they're not even trying.

Posted at 10:56 AM

January 2, 2015

As it is two days into the new year I feel like (see below) that there should be something a little bit pithy occupying this space, something about some current event that's not purely politics, something maybe a little hopeful.

But I don't know if it's because most of the media has taken this week off, but the news has seemingly also taken this entire week off.  I mean, other than the continuing stream of odd but brutal crimes, more often than not committed in Florida, the flow of news has receded to a thin trickle.

So nothing pithy at all.  Just Happy New Year to you all, and let's cross our fingers that 2015 will be just like 2014 but without all the suck.  Health, happiness, etc. — go get all that good stuff.

["I feel like..."  If there's anything like a resolution for me this year, it is to never ever use that turn of phrase again.  It's passive aggressive, and in the full context of things, what does it matter what you/I "feel"?  This is not the proper venue for feelings, I say!  And with that, I feel like I've said my piece.]

Posted at 11:09 AM

December 30, 2014

A minor quibble.

I noticed, thanks to my sad history of listening to sports radio when walking the little dog, that commercials for Quick Service Restaurant Franchiser Subway are employing a little linguistic quirk that is either too cute by half, genius or both.

Apparently, according to the copy describing the breakfast sandwiches vended by these franchises, which may or may not be a "full-on flavor free-for-all" — presumably that would be in the eye of the beholder? — "melty" is now a word.  Take it, Steak, Egg White & Cheese:

No matter what side of the bed you wake up on, you'll love this. Yummy egg with tender and delicious steak. All covered in melty cheese on freshly baked bread. Oh, what a beautiful breakfast.

Indeed.  And notice the only fake word in those four sentences is the offending "melty" — which, one would presume would be a typo for "melted" or a [sic] at the very least.  Because, between you and me, "melty" is not a word, nor will it ever be a word.  It is the sort of thing that someone might have said to be funny, ten or fifteen years ago, maybe in a Homer Simpson voice.  But: not a word, and in fact the intended word is so close in spelling and pronunciation to this fake word that it is a puzzlement as to why it is ever used in the first place.

However, perusing the rest of the food products offered, note that the Big Hot Pastrami Melt, which would seemingly be the perfect opportunity to reference this melty cheese, does not.  No, this "monument to flavor" comes with plain old "melted cheese" wedged somewhere in there between the bread and the meat product.  So maybe just the breakfast products are bestowed the privilege of "melty"?  Maybe "melty" is some sort of distillation of breakfast, which we purchase in a spotless franchise and eat in our cars, beaming?

Not the case!  No, the Black Forest Ham product, a lunch/dinner offering, is also hit with a "melty".  So whether this copywriter contrivance is the future or a party foul, we do know for sure that is it implemented in an irregular fashion.

Best I can figure out, whatever counts as the braintrust for the marketing division of parent company of the franchiser Subway (named, interestingly enough, Doctor's Associates Inc.) spent a couple million dollars on researching Fake Words That Make People Purchase Sandwich Products and/or Quick Service Restaurant Franchise Contracts.  Either that or Dave Eggers is moonlighting.

Posted at 9:56 AM

December 24, 2014

Well in the Cox family Christmas Eve means the Long Night of Wrapping.

Actually, it's been great lolling around on Twitter while in line at the Outlet Mall or while waiting for the oven to heat up, and see so many snapshots of so many people's holidays: family quirks (we have a few), those staying home, the inevitable stories of Manhattan trips to Chinatown — sure social media is the Great Satan of our time, but it also makes me feel a whole lot closer to a bunch of strangers that are awesome.

And what better feeling to have during this holiday season, after this year?

So hug your loved ones and, fuck it, maybe a couple people you don't love.  Happy holidays, all of them, to all of you.

Back to wrapping!

Posted at 6:10 PM

December 21, 2014

I was gonna spend the weekend writin' and writin' and writin' but come to find out the cable router is dead like Adam Sandler's future at Sony so no Internetting for me.

So I'm at a café (i.e., bar) so I can slip some Amazon purchases under the wire before I hit the road this week, and this is all the writin' I will be doing until I get a free moment with the family.

But lemme just say that yesterday at 3:30p when I saw the story of some insane asshole assassinating two patrolmen, my stomach turned and has not been right since.  Obviously for the awfulness if the entire thing, but even more so that it was the perfectly wrong thing to happen at the perfectly wrong time.

If you envision the relations between cops and protesters in NYC right now as a bucket of oily rags, yesterday was not so much a match thrown on it but rather bucket of oily rags getting hit with a flamethrower.

And I have abiding love and respect for everyone embroiled in this — the cops (doing such a hard job, generally well) and those who love them, the aggrieved, tired of living in a second-class citizen world, the protesters, open-hearted enough to believe they can make a difference...  Well I exclude from that PBA head Pat Lynch, who make Rudy Giuliani look like MLK in terms of demagoguery, but, yeah, it's just sadness everywhere you turn.

And this will get worse before it gets better.  There will be flames at some point, probably.  But I love my city, and I want to come back to my city after the holidays and find it hopefully not much worse than when I left it.

Posted at 2:41 PM

December 18, 2014

I'm not going to pretend.  Today is our office's annual Christmas dinner, which consists of dinner at Peter Lugar's, which is Oh My God, so I'm looking at a day of pretending to look busy and watching the clock.  Plus also yesterday was the first Entirely God News Day since, what, Obama's first election?  I mean I guess Sony pulling "The Interview" could maybe take some of the gloss off the rose that is the normalization of relations with Cuba and Gov. Cuomo putting the kibosh on fracking, but you don't actually care about Sony.  You just feel like you have to care about Sony because it's highly novel and we are poorly trained conversationalists as a people.

But here's another little dollop of happy news to get you through the day until I can go to my party:

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted four owners and operators of the company whose toxic chemical spill tainted a West Virginia river in January, forcing a prolonged cutoff of drinking water to nearly 300,000 residents in and around Charleston.

Each was charged with three counts of violating the Clean Water Act, which bars discharges of pollutants without a permit. Their company, Freedom Industries, and its owners and managers did not meet a reasonable standard of care to prevent spills, the indictment stated.

Freedom Industries is of course the company that, after crippling the greater metropolitan area around the city in which I was born, swiftly declared bankruptcy so as to avoid anything like consequence for its actions.

It is these small boons that will cheer us, as maybe if we indict enough of the actual people behind these environmental crimes (yo Don Blankenship what's up dog?), perhaps they will be disinclined to commit these crimes in the future, since apparently conscience has failed them.

Posted at 10:50 AM

December 17, 2014

Just in time for the end of the year, I wrote my first listy-type thing for the year-old The Toast, which is easily the best new website around and of a specific voice and viewpoint that I'm shocked that they'd let me contribute.  To wit, The Toast is the idiosyncratic butterfly that grew out of the comments sections of such so-called "ladyblogs" as Jezebel and The Hairpin, and it is truly sui generis.  Acutely literate, fiercely feminist, occasionally misandrist — they're really great and you can see why I'm an odd fit.  (Also: go buy Mallory's book if you haven't already.)

But anyhow it's a list of Fifty-Something Constitutional Rights Most Frequently Exercised.  It's a strange little beast, as it does whip back and forth from tongue-in-cheek to earnest sarcasm to whimsy and back again.  But I like it!  Especially the last four, which I don't think anyone's read all the way to yet.

Thanks Toast!

(Yes, that is my first byline in nearly a year.  I'm working harder to rectify that, for my own good more than yours.  Now hush.)

Posted at 10:51 AM

December 15, 2014

Let's talk about SantaCon real quick before it recedes too far in the rearview.

It is currently common sense that SantaCon as it exists now is a frothy geyser of spewing garbage that people of good conscience avoid like a GGer, just a buncha bros and the girls that love them ginning up a cheap North Pole drag and going out there to terrorize normal people with vomit and urine and sex acts.  There is no way I would dispute that characterization, and I'd sooner volunteer to intern for Chuck Johnson before I'd agree to be within ten city blocks of a SantaCon event.

But here's the interesting thing about all that: SantaCon was started as a completely different sort of event.  It went like this (and forgive me if I elide or fudge details, this is a breezy conversational recollection and not a research project), back in the late 90s, this sorta-anarchist movement, which started in San Francisco, largely, was seeping across the country.  The primary "organization" (if you can call it that) was the Cacophony Society, which soon became the SF Cacophony Society, because chapters were popping up all over the place.  Including Brooklyn!  And after some very mild pranks, the BCS decided that this SantaCon thing that some of them had participated in SF the year previous would be a really neat thing to do here in NYC.

"Really fun": yes, there was a dash of public intoxication intended, as well as a far amount of bar hopping.  But the actual intent of the thing was to do a bit of "culture jamming," or casual social protest with a bit of a sense of humor, assailing commercialism and consumerism and complacency in general.

I can't tell you what wickedly funny pranks they played because I was not there for the full evening that first time, in 98 (I think).  I was friends with them, and a putative member of the BCS, but I hate dressing up.  So I had a beer with the Santas at Rosemary's Greenpoint Tavern before they all headed out, and then off they went, robotically chanting HO. HO. HO.

That was the first one, and the only one I was around at all, so I'm not sure exactly when the wheel came off.  Maybe the first time SantaCon got a bunch of TV News footage, the first time that your miscellaneous American saw it and though, "Binge drinking. Cool."

And I realize that whatever organization that is claiming to run SantaCon right now is making a big show of claiming "culture jamming" as a raison d'etre for SantaCon, but this is demonstrably not so in the actions of the dirty filthy Santas all puking all over themselves while 50,000 other folks marched for justice on Saturday.

But I just wanted to note: SantaCon was not birthed as some frathouse tradition, or as some Elks Lodge attempt at transgression.  It began with some actual fringe-types who accomplished a lot of fringe-type activities, as a fuck-it-all attempt at social good with a tiny bit of larceny in its heart.  And perhaps the largest irony is that instead of fading away and being forgotten, SantaCon was derailed and zombified.  (See also Man, Burning.)

Or hell, is being co-opted by bros the ultimate fate of everything?

Posted at 11:12 AM

December 11, 2014

I'm not used to the feeling, but this NYT explainer of the slapstick-but-not-funny road to torture and this look into the unqualified sociopaths who developed our torture techniques (why? because they were good with dogs) dovetails nicely with my brief thoughts on the matter from yesterday.  So I may or may not be losing my touch, but at least if I am I am doing so in a way that is consistent with the Paper of Record.

But one last sweeping generalization: am I imagining this, or is the thirst for torture nothing other than a total xenophobic disregard for brown people?  And not even in the sense of punishing wrongdoers or answering some perceived cultural moral shortcoming, but just in the sense that torture would work at all.  The simple idea that a person can be "broken" is predicated on a smug superiority over the person.  As in, we didn't resort to torture because it was the last option; we resorted to torture because we thought it would work, and we thought it would work because we thought the assumed perps were simpletons because of their national and religious background.

And I don't mean "we" you and me, of course, though we are complicit if for nothing because of the elections we lost.  It's pretty clear the "we" in this equation is the Bush Administration with Dick Cheney feverishly whispering in everyone's ear, making some unilateral decisions with total operational naivete.

Oh and when is someone gonna snag the exclusive with the two bozo psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen?  Seems like that might be a good case for journalism, there.

Posted at 11:04 AM