Political narratives, and the politics of mask-wearing

John Scalzi is a blogger and science fiction author who lives here in the Buckeye State. He is also West Coast liberal who was transplanted to Ohio several decades ago by (so far as one can tell) the circumstances of his marriage. He lives in Darke County, which is near Dayton, but very much out in the country.

Scalzi is a snide elitist who has spent much of the past four years declaring how backward, stupid, racist, and (fill in your favorite cliché) Trump voters are. Since Darke County voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, this includes an occasional jab at his rural neighbors, who clearly fail to meet his expectations in many ways. At every opportunity, Scalzi will remind his readers that his neighbors are a.) white, and b.) overwhelmingly Republican.

(Yes, John Scalzi is also very white. But like many white leftwingers, he signals his virtue by using the word “white” as an epithet.) Continue reading “Political narratives, and the politics of mask-wearing”

Cindy McCain endorses Joe Biden

Breaking ranks with Donald Trump and the Republican Party, the widow and second, younger wife of the late John McCain has publicly endorsed Joe Biden: “He [Biden] will be a commander in chief that the finest fighting force in the history of the world can depend on, because he knows what it is like to send a child off to fight,” McCain said.

I don’t find this a great surprise. There had long been bad blood between the late John McCain and Donald Trump. McCain made an unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2008, losing to Barack Obama. Throughout his 2008 campaign, McCain repeatedly pushed for a larger American military presence in the Muslim Middle East—something that Donald Trump rejected. McCain and Trump were different ideologically, even as their personalities clashed. Continue reading “Cindy McCain endorses Joe Biden”

Amy Coney Barrett, conservative feminist

The political Left has a new bête noire tonight, and that individual’s surname doesn’t rhyme with dump, hump, or jump.

I’m talking about Amy Coney Barrett, of course.

We don’t know for certain yet, but President Trump will likely nominate the 48-year-old jurist and law professor to the Supreme Court later this week.

Look at her résumé: Amy Coney Barrett is a superman, a superwoman, a superperson. Her academic and professional achievements are more than impressive.  A member of Generation X (my generation, by the way) Barrett was among the first cohort of young women to come of age in an era when a woman competing in a man’s world was well….no big deal. Barrett graduated from high school in 1990. I graduated from high school four years prior to that, in 1986. I can tell you with the certainty of one who was there: women had all the educational options of men by that time. And Amy Coney Barrett made the most of them. Continue reading “Amy Coney Barrett, conservative feminist”

Biden’s Bernie Blunder

and the costs of harboring radicals…

Today at a campaign stop in Wisconsin, a reporter questioned Joe Biden about the “s” word. This was a classic foot-in-mouth Biden performance:

Fox 11’s Kia Murray asked Biden: “If you could address our camera directly, talk to the voters that are worried about socialism and you raising taxes.”

“First of all, I promise,” Biden said. “I’ve never broken my word. Anyone making less than $400,000 will not see one single penny in their tax raised.

“Number two, I beat the socialist. That’s how I got elected. That’s how I got the nomination. Do I look like a socialist? Look at my career, my whole career. I am not a socialist.”

Continue reading “Biden’s Bernie Blunder”

Ayn Rand and me

I had a brief flirtation with Ayn Rand the year I turned twenty. The most torrid part of the relationship lasted only about as long as some of Dagny Taggart’s warm-up love affairs in Atlas Shrugged. Officially, I broke off the romance; but it remains a memorable phase in my formative years.

Twenty is probably the perfect age to have a fling with Ayn Rand. In the enclosed terrarium of your teenage years, it is easy to hold any hifalutin concept of yourself that you can imagine. When you are twenty, though, things begin to change. The adult world looms large in the windshield. You realize that you aren’t quite as special, quite as brilliant, or quite as destined for spectacular success as you fancied yourself to be, only a few short years ago.

Ayn Rand, with hyper-individualist titles like Anthem and The Virtue of Selfishness, is the perfect salve for the twenty-year-old who suddenly fears that he might turn out to be quite ordinary, after all. The twenty-year-old’s brief burst of Ayn Randian egoism is a final cry of rebellion for the self-important teenager that is slipping away.

I first heard of Ayn Rand around 1983, when I was in high school. My favorite rock band was Rush. Neil Peart, Rush’s drummer and main lyricist, wrote at least two songs based on Rand’s novels and philosophical tracts. Continue reading “Ayn Rand and me”

John Mellencamp, campaign music, and champagne socialism

Hey, did you know we have an election coming up in a few months? And yes, it promises to be a real mess. (We could get a whole bunch of blog posts from that, and I expect we will.)

One of the minor controversies from this year, though, involves the Trump campaign and rock music. Various musical artists, including Neil Young, Elton John, Rihanna, and some group called Panic!At the Disco have either objected to Trump playing their music at campaign events, or issued actual cease-and-desist orders.

Brendon Urie, the frontman of Panic! At The Disco, wrote in a tweet:

“Dear Trump Campaign, F— you. You’re not invited. Stop playing my song. No thanks, Brendon Urie, Panic! At The Disco & company.”

Come on, Brendan, quit beating around the bush. Tell us how you really feel.

This is not a new controversy. It didn’t begin with Donald Trump, who is (whether you love him, hate him, or accept him with reservations) an undeniably polarizing politician. Almost no one is neutral about Donald Trump.

Most celebrity musicians, like the rest of the Hollywood/entertainment jet set, are millionaires who fancy themselves socialists. Taylor Swift has a net worth of $360~$400 million. (It fluctuates with the market value of her immense portfolio.) Taylor Swift is the ultimate “one-percenter”, to use Bernie Sanders’s term. And yet, Taylor Swift has recently come out as a vocal proponent of the Democratic Party.

Back in 2008, John McCain was the GOP nominee. McCain got into hot water with his campaign music, too. McCain made the mistake of playing several songs belonging to John Mellencamp, a rocker whose popularity peaked in the 1980s.

Mellencamp objected, and issued a cease-and-desist order of his own. Speaking through a publicist, Mellencamp said:

“If [McCain is] such a true conservative, why [is he] playing songs that have a very populist pro-labor message written by a guy who would find no argument if you characterized him as an ardent leftist?”

A few points to unpack here. First of all, it is rather foolish for GOP candidates to use the music of elite musicians who probably hate their guts.

Consider, for example, the aforementioned Neil Young. Neil Young has moonlighted as a left-of-center activist since the 1960s. Neil Young also has a net worth of $65 million.

Even fellow musicians, the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, recognized Neil Young’s hypocrisy long ago. They openly rebuked him in their 1974 classic, “Sweet Home Alabama”.

That said, Donald Trump should have known better than to use a Neil Young song at a campaign event. What was he expecting?

John McCain should have known better than to use a John Mellencamp song in 2008, too. Mellencamp, who spent the early years of the 1970s immersed in the drug-addled counterculture, has long distinguished himself as being left-of-center. The signposts have been out there for years. Mellencamp has never been shy about expressing his views, such as they are.

I’m too young to care much about Neil Young, and too old to care about Taylor Swift. I hadn’t even heard of Panic! At The Disco until just the other day. I’ve maybe heard of Rihanna, but I couldn’t name one of her songs to save my life.

I do remember John Mellencamp, though. His breakout album, American Fool, was released in 1982. I was then entering high school, and the heart of my teenage years. John Mellencamp was never one of my favorite artists; but a few of his songs I genuinely liked, and still listen to from time-to-time.

That said, I have to call Mr. Mellencamp out on his self-description as an “ardent leftist”. Mellencamp has a net worth of $25 million. That makes him a pauper by Taylor Swift standards. He’s pretty poor compared to Neil Young, too. Nevertheless, with a net worth of $25 million, John Mellencamp more than qualifies as a one-percenter.

Here’s the way I see it: If you want to call yourself “an ardent leftist”, then act the part. Give away your fortune to help the less fortunate—or to fund the revolution. Move into communal housing in the inner city, or perhaps a dingy cubbyhole of an apartment. Eat rice and beans for dinner every night.

But if you have $25 million in the bank—and you keep it—then you don’t get to call yourself an “ardent leftist”. And no, you don’t get to simply “identify” as a leftist, either. This isn’t like sex reassignment surgery. All Mellencamp (or Neil Young, or Taylor Swift) would have to do is give away their vast sums of wealth. Then they’ll be “ardent leftists” in name as well as deed. Until then, they’re Republicans in denial.

Actress Cynthia Nixon, known for her roles in Sex and the City and The Pelican Brief, tried to retool herself as a progressive politician a few years ago. Her plan, so far as anyone can tell, was to run against Governor Andrew Cuomo from the left. At one point, Nixon referred to herself as a “democratic socialist”. (This is basically socialism without the gulags and firing squads (at first, anyway).)

Nixon, however, has a net worth of $25 million. This makes her about as rich as John Mellencamp.

Not to beat a dead horse here, but a “democratic socialist” with $25 million is just as much of an oxymoron as an “ardent leftist” with $25 million. Some things go together, and other things don’t. The Pope, or so I’ve been told, must be a Roman Catholic. The Pope can’t be a Muslim, a Jehovah’s Witness, or an atheist. A proper Marxist, likewise, can’t be filthy rich. 

I would issue the following challenge to Cynthia Nixon, John Mellencamp, and other “champagne socialists” out there: Socialism, like charity, starts at home. If you want to impose socialist economic policies on everyone else, start by giving away all your excess millions, beyond the bare amount you need to live. Redistribute your own wealth first. Give it all away! Then you can talk to us about redistributing everyone else’s wealth.

A banker or a sex worker?

Which one would you rather be? Well…maybe it depends on the bank’s 401K and dental plan (?)

After a conservative Canadian MP declared that no woman would willingly become a sex worker, banker-turned-sex-worker Madison Winter wrote this rebuttalAu contraire, she said, citing her own journey from a corporate finance career into escorting.

I’m not here to cheerlead for sex work, but I see her point. It’s somewhat contradictory to state that women have complete agency on one hand, while simultaneously depicting women as hapless victims, who will be constantly exploited if someone isn’t protecting them at every turn.

Likewise, I think we can agree that most women wouldn’t be interested in becoming sex workers. But anyone who claims to speak for “all women”—or “all” of any demographic—is standing on shaky ground from the outset.

Brexit is official

A new beginning for the United Kingdom

Today the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union, ending the nation’s long and costly experiment with the European Union.

This is the day on which the UK reclaims its national sovereignty. 

There is nothing scary, or even revolutionary, here. The United Kingdom existed as a sovereign nation for centuries before the European Union. And as I seem to recall, the country fared quite well. 

As a sovereign nation, the UK spread British law, civilization, and the English language throughout the world. 

Congratulations to all readers from the United Kingdom. And (I’ll say the words that the traitor, Jeremy Corbyn, wouldn’t) God save the Queen

‘American Dirt’ and another kowtow to the Internet mob

Yet another example of cancel culture in action. The book tour of Jeanine Cummins, author of the novel American Dirt, has been cancelled after the backlash of an Internet social justice mob.

What’s the issue? Apparently a woman who is not of Mexican heritage is not allowed to write a novel about Mexican migrants. 

Or so the mob declares. 

***

Update: 124 relatively unknown authors have signed an open letter to Oprah Winfrey, asking Oprah to abet the book-burning project.

I’m not familiar with the majority of the authors. Quite a few of them, though, seem to be authors of competing books (also about the Mexican migrant experience) that have not achieved similar commercial success.

A hint of the green-eyed monster, perhaps?

Make of that what you will.

Technology and the voluntary loss of privacy

This is bigger than Katie Hill…

A certain politician from California has been in the hot seat of late because of embarrassing revelations of a highly personal nature. 

Katie Hill, a freshman representative from California, has recently seen her private life aired on the Internet, from The Daily Mail to Twitter… 

And what a colorful private life it is, apparently. Say what you will about Representative Hill and her politics, but she isn’t boring and she isn’t a prude. 

This naturally raises a lot of questions: Should a politician’s sex life be an issue, so long as they aren’t breaking any laws or violating anyone’s rights? Can a politician who leads an unconventional sex life govern effectively?

Politics tends to attract horndogs of both sexes, irrespective of ideology: Consider the examples of Bill Clinton, JFK, and Donald Trump.

Further back in history, consider Catherine the Great and King David. 

That isn’t the angle I want to consider, though. 

I grew up in the 1980s. Back then, unless you were a famous person, most of what you said and did simply wasn’t documented.

Photographs existed, obviously. But individual photos had to be developed, usually at a Fotomat. And since they also had to be printed out on paper, there was a cost associated with them. 

“Instant cameras”, with self-developing film, enjoyed a period of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. But the film was expensive, and the photo quality wasn’t very good. 

Because of such negative cost and convenience factors, people tended to take photos only when it was an “event”: a birthday celebration, a school play, a family portrait, etc. I won’t go so far as to say that having your photo taken was a big deal in the 1980s, but yes…it was kind of a big deal. It didn’t happen every day, for the average person. 

As a result, most of what you said and did died in the moment. There wasn’t this minute-by-minute record of your life that we have now. 

Those technologically primitive times had their benefits. Suppose that you said something dumb, or you did something that pushed a few boundaries. Unless it was really over the top, it was quickly forgotten. 

Which is, I would suggest, the way it should be.

Katie Hill certainly didn’t want her private photos published on the Internet. Her reasonable expectations of privacy were violated. Let’s be unequivocal about that. 

But the vast majority of the photos which came to light were clearly posed. This strongly implies that she consented to them being taken. 

This, in itself, represents a major lapse in judgment. Why, pray tell, would anyone consent to a naked photo of oneself, smoking from a bong, with an iron cross tattoo plainly visible near one’s pubic region?

We’ve bought into the notion that every moment of our lives needs to be Instagrammed, Facebooked, and selfied. Perhaps this is mass vanity, or perhaps this has just become a habit. Either way, it’s what we’re all doing. 

And this isn’t just the Millennials and the GenZers. I have friends in their forties and fifties who seemingly can’t go out to dinner without taking a half-dozen photos of themselves and uploading them to Facebook. 

Look at us, and what a happy couple we are, having a fancy meal out on the town!

More of our lives needs to remain private. But our private lives especially need to remain private. 

How do you define “private”? Here’s a rule of thumb: Don’t consent to any photo of yourself that you wouldn’t want posted on the homepage of The Daily Mail. Because as Katie Hill now knows, that may very well happen.