Sunday, September 20, 2015

So Few Democrats

I have a strong recollection of the Democrat primary candidates of 2008.  It was the first presidential election in which I voted, though why the Democrats would stand out in my memory, I have no idea.

But since 1992, it seems like the Democrat field has never been as crowded.  Of the three elections since then in which the Democrats haven’t run an incumbent, the number of candidates with non-trivial delegate counts  or vote totals have been:

2000:  2 (Gore, Bradley)

2004:  4 (Kerry, Edwards, Dean, and Clark (barely))

2008:  2 (Obama and Hillary)

The Republicans, in contrast, run more candidates:

1996:  5 (Dole, Buchanan, Forbes, Alexander, and Keyes

2000:  3 (Bush McCain, Keyes))

2008:  4 (McCain, Romney, Huckabee, and Paul)

2012:  4 (Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul)

Which brings us to 2016.  The Democrats have two declared candidates (Clinton and Sanders), one undeclared candidate (O’Malley), and one rumored to be testing the waters (Biden).  Meanwhile, the Republicans have some 15 candidates serious enough to participate in one of the Fox debates.

Granted, Clinton’s candidacy makes 2016 something of an outlier even in the context of the trend I’m describing:  she has the Wall Street money, the Democrat core is generally happy with her and the party’s brand of cultural Marxism, and other politicians seem afraid of her.  Indeed, it’s hard to imagine Biden even considering a challenge but for the scandal of her ongoing criminality.

Likewise, Trump has exaggerated something of the opposite effect on the Republican side.  As any number of commentators have pointed out, there is deep dissatisfaction among the Republican base with what the party has become, and while Trump has successfully appealed to that dissatisfaction, a lot of his rivals are counting on his candidacy to collapse under the weight of his own . . . Trumpishness.

But the trend was already established, and I don’t fully understand why this should be so.  Is there anything structural about the nominating procedures that encourage competition on the Republican side while discouraging it on the Democrat side?  Or is it just a function of the Clinton syndicate?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

So, Female Adultery is Okay Now?

Although I never actually watched the movie, I have the impression that the release of the movie Bridges of Madison County was attended with some controversy, and it required strenuous efforts on the part of the intelligentsia to assure us how empowering (or something) adultery was for women.  But I strain to recall having seen or heard about subsequent movies whose female protagonist cheated on her husband and that the movie celebrated this.  The movies I can think of – Unfaithful, Chloewith unfaithful wives uniformly carried the message that adultery was, you know, bad; those two in particular carried the message that it was dangerous, much in the way Fatal Attraction presented the dangers of male adultery.

Has the zeitgeist shifted more decisively in favor of adulterous wives?  It may be coincidence, but I happened to have caught two movies in the last couple of months that celebrated adulterous heroines:  This Is Where I Leave You, with Tina Fey cheating on her workaholic husband with the high school boyfriend she broke up with when he was brain damaged in a car accident; and The Best of Me, with Michelle Monaghan cheating on her workaholic husband with the high school boyfriend she broke up with when he went to prison.  I note that in neither movie was the wife intending to divorce her husband (although both movies make the eventual outcome ambiguous).  She just wanted a little extra-marital action.

Neither of these movies are very good.  TIWILY presents its progressive family as the cliché I identified back in this post, and it strains unsuccessfully to reconcile its approval of Fey’s adultery with Justin Bateman’s character being the victim of his wife’s adultery.  TBoM, meanwhile, avails itself of almost every movie cliché every invented, and it’s kind of distracting when you can see the plot lines coming a mile away.  But the point is that the movie presented this kind of behavior as okay if it makes women happy.*

Neither of these movies generated even the least bit of controversy that I heard about, and this strikes me as something new.  Mrs. Φ said she is surprised that I’m surprised at the moral degeneration of popular culture.  But I see enough of it to know when it ratchets downward.

* Popular culture – or at any rate its purveyors – doesn’t seem to extend this indulgence to men.  I can’t even think of a recent movie celebrating the adultery of a married man.  Relatedly, I have the vague impression that media opinion was really on the fence about the Ashley Madison hack until Gizmodo revealed that virtually all of its distaff accounts were zombies. Ashley Madison was only cool when it was “empowering” women; now that it’s a hangout for desperate men, it suffers the obloquy of being a late-nite punchline.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wrong Hermeneutic

Leon Wolf (via Ace) writes:

As a conservative . . .

Really? I've never even heard this guy's name before, but let's see what he has to say:

. . . who has advocated for criminal justice reform, I have a lot of admiration for the #BlackLivesMatter movement, which has been remarkably effective at raising awareness of the myriad ways that black Americans are treated differently — or, put more bluntly, treated worse — by law enforcement.

So, already we're off the rails. I say this as a conservative who has himself been critical of the police: their methods are characterized by excess aggression, poor accountability, and insufficient regard for the Constitutional rights of American citizens. But I have no sympathy at all for criticisms centered around "disparate impact" analysis, and for two very good reasons: (1) it's factually wrong; and (2) it doesn't contribute to my well-being.

As the experience of, most prominently, Martin O'Malley at the Nut-Roots convention demonstrate, the #BlackLivesMatter movement isn't motivated by the desire to improve police behavior in a disinterested way. It is motivated by the desire to socially and politically validate black racial grievance, and his claims to conservatism notwithstanding, Wolf buys into this motivation.* His analysis may be more sophisticated than the crude slogan -- "Po-po b' raciss'!" of the street, but his column is about the structural racism of "Big Government". Nowhere does this "conservative" mention the easily observed and incontrovertible reality of disproportionate black criminality and anti-social behavior. I don't have a firm fixed opinion about whether "loosies" should be sold legally by street peddlers in NYC, whether parking and traffic laws are in all cases constructive or the fines for their offenses onerous, or whether the drug laws and their associated sentences are socially optimum. Indeed, I can understand the arguments on both sides of these questions. But I am sure, by common experience, that blacks run afoul of these laws in the numbers they do, not by some conscious or unconscious discrimination on the part of the police or in the structure of the law, but rather by the inability or unwillingness on the part of black Americans to observe the standards of behavior expected by their fellow citizens.

Believing otherwise is unlikely to end well. We already see what disparate impact analysis did in the Wells Fargo lending prosecution: Wells Fargo allowed its loan officers to charge not-smart borrowers above-market interest rates, but the government didn't bring a case on behalf of not-smart borrowers. It brought the case only on behalf of not-smart black borrowers, and only the black borrowers received redress in the eventual settlement. The white not-smart borrowers? The government sent them away empty-handed.

I'm not interested in these kinds of settlements. I'm not interested in a world where the police continue the violate with impunity our rights under the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, where we have no right of self-defense against those violations, where the legal system itself refuses to vindicate those rights, and where vindication, even when possible, is lengthy, expensive and uncertain . . . BUT where the police structure their violations such that blacks and whites are victimized in equal proportion to their percentages of the population. Because THAT is the likely outcome of admiration for #BlackLivesMatter.

* Wolf links to a Ken Cuccinelli column that considers the effects of drug sentencing reform, mostly in Texas. The column is too vague for me to understand what trade-offs might have been involved, but to be fair to Wolf, it's apparently an example of the kind of changes he has in mind.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ruling the Ranks

From the Arizona Republic:

Media heads rule ranks of best-paid CEOs

The article contains the names of 13 individual CEOs:

I wonder if there is anything else in common among the best paid CEOs other than media?

Monday, July 06, 2015

Mad Men Finale

A few thoughts:

  • I liked the ending, though not until the next morning when, while recouting the details to Mrs. Phi, I finally caught the connection between Don's meditative Cheshire cat-grin and the Coke commercial. Until then, Don's retreat with Stepanie into a hippie commune and his crisis of conscience didn't make any sense, from his tear-stained phone call with Peggy to his apparent moment of empathy with a proto- cubicle drone. "I took another man's name . . . and made nothing of it." No, he made "Don Draper" into the most sought-after creative name on Madison Avenue; finding the limits to the happiness and meaning that accompany his fame is not the same thing. And as for the drone's lament at being invisible, replaceable, expendable: Don was the opposite of those things from the beginning, drawing the envy of every man he met and the loins of every woman. Yes, he alienated all his personal relationships by failing to control his zipper, but again, that's not the same thing.* But who cares? It was all an artifice to put Don in a place to Ommm his way into advertising history.

  • I'm happy for Pete and Trudy. I was so afraid last episode that their reconciliation would fall apart just to spite those of us rooting for it. But apparently his million dollar signing bonus and Lear jet finally succeeded in providing him with the status he craved. That doesn't make him a good person, but it does make him relatable: I've always said that the little weasel was the one character whose motivations I really identified with. Pete should have been the one to hug cube-drone-man.

  • Joan's character arc was absurd. She began the series as the ultimate alpha female who deployed her icy sexuality to keep the men around her awed and at bay; she ended it mewling about the EEOC and Betty Friedan. She began it openly scornful of Peggy's career ambitions, preferring to serve as Roger's mistress; she ended it trading in her rich and retired lover for . . . gambling her cashed-out partnership on starting a production company?**

  • Given creator Matthew Weiner's well-documented ethnic animosities, it's probably for the best that he didn't consider Christianity to be interesting enough for any treatment beyond the occasional drive-by shooting. But the rise of Evangelical Christianity in the 60s and 70s has been a more significant and enduring manifestation of the counterculture than the "hippies" ever were. It's too bad that the show lacked the perspicacity to give this a fair treatment.

* Also something about not recognizing that people around him loved him, which may have been what Don was actually empathizing with. This is marginally more credible, but only just, since I don't really think this was the source of Don's problem.

** The only more absurd character was Harry Crane, whose misfortune was to be the dumping ground for every contrivance the writer's need to dig themselves out of a hole. He began as, by the standards of Sterling Cooper, a straight arrow; he ended by first hitting on and then half-assed blackmailing Megan Draper.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Audience Participation

As I was discussing the content of the last post with her, Mrs. Φ asked a question to which I didn't have a very good answer. She pointed out that we have three potentially contradictory sociological generalizations:

  • The number (indeed, the mere existence) of prior sexual partners strongly predicts marital failure;

  • Successful marriage has lately become the preserve of the upper classes; and yet

  • To the extent that Paul and Emma, or I am Charlotte Simmons, are representative, our future upper classes spend their college years whoring around.

It seems likely that at least one of these generalizations can't be as true as we think. Thoughts?

Monday, June 22, 2015


I will generally align myself with Ace, and add a few comments of my own.

  • Another day, another gun-free zone.

  • You’re taking over our country.  Of all the grievances that white Americans have against black Americans, I don't think this is one of them.  The Obama administration does nothing except the bidding of those who bankroll his campaigns. If anything, black Americans suffer the greater near-term material consequences of immigration, be it ethnic cleansing from their neighborhoods, competition for jobs, etc.  They are unlikely to get as good a deal from our rising Mexican and Asian masters as they received from Whites.

  • For all the grievances Whites have against Blacks, the little old ladies at Bible study in Emanuel AME had nothing to do with them.  On the contrary, they were without doubt as mortified by the likes of Shyrome Jaquane Johnson,  Philip Moses, Franklin Glover, and Levell Leonard Grant as we are by Dylann Roof.

  • Again we see the effect of asymmetrical media power, the power to decide whether the injuries suffered by you and your group get to be A Thing.  How many of you had heard the four names listed above until you read them here?   How many outside the readership of our corner of the internet remember Omar Thornton? In fact, while Dylann's murders will likely dominate the statistics of non-Hispanic white-on-black violent crime, it is but a spittle-speck in the storm of black-on-white (or -Asian, or -Hispanic) crime. Yet this is what we'll be hearing about for the next 18 months.

  • Dylann.  With two “n”’s.  That’s an improbable spelling for a white kid.  It bespeaks his family's integration into the overwhelmingly black community where he grew up. I'd like to know more about this than I'm currently seeing reported.

  • The usual suspects will milk this tragedy for what they will, yet the grace and forgiveness shown by the members of Emanuel is remarkable. Also remarkable is the total absence of retaliatory mayhem from black Americans at large. It's almost as if Black outrange is always in inverse proportion to the alleged offense. A police officer shoots a robber that is violently assaulting him: nationwide riots. Two police officers gun down John Crawford III in cold blood: John who? A "white Hispanic" shoots a wannabe gangster that's slamming his head into the pavement: numerous retaliatory murders and assaults across the country. A no-kidding racist degenerate murders nine people in church: thus far, nothing. Agitators take note: apparently, fomenting race war is trickier than it looks.