EVERYTHING LOOKS BAD IF YOU REMEMBER IT

Posted in Rants on March 31st, 2009 by Ed

My students have been assigned this brief article written immediately after Joe Biden was chosen as Obama's running mate. The purpose is to initiate a discussion of Biden's colorful history and lack of "wow" appeal, neither of which were disqualifying because Obama didn't really need anything from a running mate. He was doing fine on his own. This contrasts with McCain, who needed a running mate to come on board and save his trainwreck of a campaign. That is, of course, too much to ask of any running mate. Obama had the luxury of picking whoever he wanted without worrying about what it would do to Save his campaign which didn't need saving.

Pretty standard stuff.

Now spend a few minutes reading the comments. I couldn't even get past the first dozen without my jaw locking in a permanently dropped position. It appears that the general public's analytical abilities regarding elections are as good as their math and geography skills. The reaction appears to be evenly split between right-wing fantasy and that overwhelming forced pessimism from liberals that made me want to punch everyone for the last three months of the election. The first comment:

I can't believe Obama made this choice. It is just so dumb. They needed to reach out to working class Whites, OK I accept that. Biden is going to help? I don't see it myself. They needed a hunter, a shooter, a drinker, a fighter and a worker. Who opposed abortion.

Need bold predictions? There were bold predictions:

Biden is a disastrous choice forced on Obama by AIPAC because of Obama's incurable wobbliness on the Israeli-Arab question, as in everything else…As the gaping void behind his JFK image becomes more and more visible to the American public, Obama is reduced to pandering to televangelists and Israel-firsters, thereby cementing his certain defeat.

Not defeat. Certain defeat. Cemented. And cement is indestructible.

He really is the Democrat's Vince Cable. The wrong candidate has been chosen. Prepare for President McCain, the Dumocrats have gon' dun' it' agun.

Those considerations are only relevant should Obama win and at this moment he's trailing McCain. So the immediate task is how to deal with McCain.

Yes, he was formidable! Maybe we need someone with expertise:

I can say as a lifetime American, the things said about Biden in this article are 100% accurate, and were put quite mildly, to say the least. I'm hardly a rabid McCain fan, myself (I'm not even a Republican) — but if these two poor blokes are the best the Democratic Party has to offer, well…it's no wonder they've lost seven of the last ten U.S. presidential elections, with number 8 very possibly on the way.

I feel like I have lowered myself to write a post in which I consider internet comments to be representative of public opinion, but in scanning this thread I found myself instantly transported back to the first week of September. I remember clearly riding an escalator at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston and being told by a colleague that McCain just made his VP choice and…oh boy, Obama was in trouble. His choice of Biden, which had been made a week earlier, was bad. He was losing (or losing "badly" depending on who was speaking) and now McCain harnessed the talents of this young, sexy conservative superstar who was going to win over every Hillary Clinton supporter and help McCain expose Obama's shallow cult of personality and lack of intellectual substance. The sky was falling, President McCain was an inevitability, and one could hardly maintain balance between the gloating conservatives and the liberals looking for a quiet corner in which to commit suicide.

Remember all that? What the fuck was everyone thinking? I know people always view their own behavior more favorably in hindsight, but it would be interesting to make people reconcile their opinions at that time with the events of the subsequent two months.

I can't tell if people really are that dumb or if the emotional rollercoaster of following politics closely simply overwhelms good judgment. Internet comments may be where hope goes to die – hey, at least I didn't use YouTube comments – but I think it serves a purpose here. It can be pretty embarrassing to leave a written record of one's opinions, the wisdom of which will be analyzed after the fact. For most people, forgetting what they say almost immediately functions as a very effective defense mechanism against self-improvement.

ASSCOVERING

Posted in Quick Hits on March 30th, 2009 by Ed

When I worked in collections we had a series of increasingly threatening letters we'd send to insurance companies in an effort to get them to pay up, starting from "We believe there has been an error and you have underpaid. Kindly correct this honest mistake" and ranging up to a letter we liked to call the "Fuck you, pay me" (borrowed from Goodfellas). By the time an insurer or, more rarely, an individual recieved the FYPM letter, it could safely be assumed that we were no longer dicking around and were about to break it off in their ass. Methaphorically.

I get the distinct sense that the Obama administration has just sent GM and Chrysler the FYPM, what with its 30/60 day ultimatums. I get the even more distinct sense that they'd love to force them into bankruptcy right now but can't muster the political will – or perhaps the government needs a couple weeks to figure out how Debtor-in-Posession financing will work for such behemoth bankruptcies given the ailing banking system. Ostensibly they are being given 30/60 days to find a buyer or "restructure", which we all know is ridiculous. If the companies could do either they'd have done so already. So this amounts to political theater, giving a very public One Last Chance while behind the scenes the automakers, administration, and bankruptcy courts have started a countdown and have been given fair warning: "The hammer falls in 30 days. Whatever you need to do to get ready, do it."

Tags:

THE FINE LINE BETWEEN CONSERVATISM AND INSANITY

Posted in Rants on March 30th, 2009 by Ed

There are a lot of people in the political world with whom I disagree. If I was locked in a room for several hours with Richard Shelby or Bob Corker, for example, we'd probably argue when the conversation turned to politics. I think they are wrong about most things political. Fundamentally, though, I doubt there's anything wrong with them as people. They're of average or better intelligence, sane, and probably pretty nice to people who know them well. They're normal people; they're just wrong about a lot of things.

In a second category are the profiteers, the people in the political world whose primary interest is padding their own bank accounts. They're performers. They know what to say to get their mug on TV, land that precious talk radio gig, or become the next wingnut best-selling author. Sean Hannity, for example, was a garden variety, bland media conservative for many years before he figured out a few things about showmanship. He knows that people pay to see over-the-top, hyperbolic entertainment and angry catharsis, so he delivers. He knows which buttons to push, how, and when. As hard as it is to believe, Hannity probably isn't much like his TV character in private. He may still be a douchebag and an idiot, but I bet that one could have a normal conversation with him about fine Italian restaurants in New York or baseball or the iPhone or something.

Then there is a third category – the elected officials and pundits who, in all seriousness, appear to be categorically out of their fucking minds. Not "crazy" in the colloquial sense ("Man, Sean Hannity is crazy. Did you hear that bullshit he said yesterday?"). Not "crazy" because he or she makes shit up or is wrong about everything. I mean legitimately mentally ill and in need of professional help. While it's very Republican (or at least Bill Frist-ian) to attempt to diagnose medical conditions from afar, I cannot shake the feeling when watching some of these people that I am watching a person of tremendous power and influence whom a competent psychiatrist would consider unfit to be in society unsupervised.

Take Glenn Beck, for example. There are lots of right-wing talking heads on radio and TV. And I find nearly all of them to be complete jackasses. Beck, though…there's something wrong with that guy. Accuse me of whatever nefarious motive you prefer, but I have seen and heard enough legitimately mentally ill people in my life to suspect that he and reality have a strained relationship. Among the semicoherent rambling, the baseless and readily disproven paranoia, the increasing overlap with lunatic fringe fascist ideology, with and the bug-eyed thousand yard stare of the cult leader dousing the compound in kerosene while distributing the grape Flavor Aid, it's very difficult to imagine a psychologist or psychiatrist having anything but a field day with this guy. Telling the truth is one thing, being wrong is another and being wrong on purpose (i.e., lying) is yet another. Being unable to tell the difference is cause for medical intervention.

Beck is not alone. I'd add Michelle Bachmann (no, seriously), Helen "Black Helicopters are an important issue to my constituents" Chenoweth, B-1 Bob Dornan, and Jim Bunning among others. It's not that I think people with whom I disagree are insane; I think that people who regularly display multiple symptoms of mental illness are insane. I suppose this would be irrelevant (but fucked up) if people were only tuning in to Beck to mock him or if Michelle Bachmann was the kind of third party candidate whose repeated campaigning is encouraged for comedy value (a la Alan Keyes or Lyndon LaRouche). But listening to Beck and Bachmann talk about the impending One World Government it is important to bear in mind that he is a famous talk show host on a major network and she is in Congress. Their supporters represent a large group of Americans, Americans who either cannot tell the difference between sane and insane or can but don't care. Either reflects poorly on the health of our political culture.

WEAR THE SHAME. PROUDLY.

Posted in No Politics Friday, Quick Hits on March 29th, 2009 by Ed

MISTER, YOU JUST MADE A SALE!

Posted in No Politics Friday, Quick Hits on March 28th, 2009 by Ed

Do you want a job at Lee University in lovely Cleveland, Tennessee? Well according to their recent posting to the job section of the American Political Science Association site, all you need to do is:

Send letter of application, curriculum vitae, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, a personal statement of Christian faith, and a statement describing the integration of Christian faith and discipline of expertise to (name omitted).

Sign. Me. Up.

OWNING YOUR OKAYNESS

Posted in No Politics Friday on March 27th, 2009 by Ed

Do you ever feel like ordinary soft drinks aren't edgy enough for your cynical, Gen-X lifestyle? Oh, how you must yearn for that brief period in the mid-90s during which, in select and appropriately edgy test cities, you could enjoy an OK Soda.

In 1994 the marketing team at the Coca-Cola company, presumably wrapped in flannel and rocking out to Candlebox, decided to release a new beverage targeted specifically at teen angst and the rapidly fading popularity of I'm-so-jaded alternative rock. Their plan was to out-jade the jaded, cynical youth demographic with a marketing campaign that amounted to a (slick, corporate) postmodern take on marketing campaigns. Daniel Clowes was hired to design bleak, dreary cans (not at all like the bright, eye-catching designs a corporation would use!). The ad campaign consisted of angry phone messages left by hip young consumers on the company's 1-800-I-FEEL-OK hotline. The logo was a white square with "OK." in plain black text. The keystone of the marketing campaign, though, was a ten-point "OK Manifesto" which was a combination of deliberately silly platitudes ("OK Soda emphatically rejects anything that is not OK, and fully supports anything that is."), calculated cynicism ("What's the point of OK? Well, what's the point of anything?"), and faux-earnest admissions that the soda really isn't that great ("Never overestimate the remarkable abilities of "OK" brand soda.")

The self-deprecating beverage was tested in appropriately edgy places like Seattle and Austin with expectations that it would soon be on the lips of every grunge-rocking young whippersnapper in America. Unfortunately the soda tasted like a bile-flavored wine cooler and The Kids were predictably unimpressed by a brutal multinational corporation's clumsy attempt at targeted marketing. Apparently winking and nudging about the vapidity of marketing campaigns and the lameness of the product does not make an effective marketing campaign (although it worked quite well for VW in the 1960s, if we recall its seminal DDB ad campaign). Maybe it just doesn't work if the company behind it is so goddamn obvious about trying to be Young and Edgy. The product was quietly euthanized in less than a year. The few people who mourn OK's demise recommend, or so the internet tells me, the following recipe to make your own: 75% flat Coke, 25% orange soda, and a "splash" of Dr. Pepper. Note that neither ginandtacos.com nor its parent corporation, Nordyne Defense Dynamics, recommend that you try this or accept liability if you do.

Ironically – and certainly the marketing wizards would appreciate that! – Coca-Cola succeeded in failure. OK Soda has something of a cult following among the hipsters to whom the original product was targeted more than a decade ago. The contemporary fad for all things kitschy has elevated OK's marketing campaign to cult status, a beloved example of the hilariously bad. What delicious irony that jaded young people are now enjoying the product exactly as intended. Or perhaps it is metacommentary so multi-layered that I can't even keep up with who's sarcastically enjoying whom in this situation.

"Are you being sarcastic, dude?"

"I don't even know anymore."

Fortunately, not knowing is OK.tm

A CONDENSED HISTORY OF THE WORLD

Posted in Rants on March 26th, 2009 by Ed

The economic history of the United States over the last 60 years – our rise to the wealthiest and most powerful economy in recorded history and long, slow lurch into insolvency and economic balkanization among the population – is a direct result of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress.

Allow me to explain.


Not pictured: subprime lending

In the conduct of the Second World War, technological advances in aircraft allowed air forces to develop the techniques of strategic bombing. For most of the War, the Allies' ability to turn Axis nations into powder and rubble was constrained by the range and capacity of the existing bomber aircraft (primarily the B-17 and the British Lancaster). In other words, in 1943 it took an unreasonable number of aircraft, each with a small bomb load, to reach Germany and drop a worthwhile number of bombs on a target. In the Pacific, well, our bombers simply didn't have the range to reach Japan at all. When the B-29 came along, everything changed. With tremendous range and payload it could travel exceptional distances and, more importantly, rain a fuckload of large explosives on German and Japanese soil. We're not talking about the modern laser guided bomb that can be fired down a chimney. This is pre-computer era heavy bombing – if you want to drop a bomb on an oil refinery you drop 700 bombs and figure one will hit it.

It's incorrect to say that the B-29 won or turned the tide of the War. It didn't. But it brought the War to a more rapid end…and it did that by turning Germany and Japan, civilian and military targets alike, into smoking piles of gravel. We bombed the living shit out of them as fast as we could build B-29s and bomb casings. Eventually, as the military term goes, we "broke the enemy's will to fight." Daily firebomb raids on Tokyo will do that. Now consider the fact that the German military had already done unspeakable damage to the Soviet Union, Britain, Poland, Greece, Eastern Europe, and France earlier in the War. After we sent Germany and Japan back to the Stone Age, consider the economic standing of the United States at the end of 1945.

There was one industrialized nation in the world that was not in ruins, and we were it. Throughout the War our enormous production capacity and economy were able to arm the world – Britain, Soviet Union, France, Poland, and ourselves. Then we pulled a neat trick; after we had used that enormous capacity to help the world destroy itself, we immediately transformed our ecomony into a means of rebuilding it. Only the US had the ability and means to churn out the cars, the steel, the machinery, the resources, and everything else Japan, Britain, and continental Europe needed rebuild itself.

This is why the 1950s were our economic high water mark. People without educations could not only get manufacturing work, they could get highly-paid manufacturing work. Employers grumbled about Unions but, hey, everyone was making so goddamn much money that they forked over the salaries that made the middle class with relative good humor. The post-War generation and its prodigious number of Boomer children established a level of prosperity that working people had never before experienced. Then things got complicated.

By the late 1960s Europe and Japan had largely rebuilt. They started cranking out their own manufactured goods to compete with American ones. We could no longer name our price or our wage. We lost our position as the only functioning manufacturing economy on the planet. The unparalleled prosperity of the American middle class came to an end and employers started fighting back, cutting costs, outsourcing, and all of the other harbingers of economic doom that became prevalent in the 1970s.

Then Reagan came along and reminded Americans how much better everything had been in the 1950s, reminding the Boomers that they had earned at least the standard of living that their parents had achieved if not better. One problem – real wages were not increasing. They peaked in the early 70s and have stagnated or declined since. In order to let Americans afford the lifestyle that Reaganism was selling we had to get a little creative.

We repeatedly cut taxes, which made people feel like their earnings increased. We gave people a convenient list of scapegoats (the short version: black people) to blame for our fading prosperity. And most importantly, we began expanding credit. We emphasized consumerism as a combination of a birthright and a civic duty but we were no longer giving people the large middle class wages the WWII generation enjoyed. So we had to fudge it. If you want Joe to keep shopping while you cut his wages, you give him a Mastercard. Or, you know, four.

The 1990s brought two developments: the explicit removal of economic borders with NAFTA and the brief fantasy that the stock market was magically going to make us all millionaires. With intense competition from cheap Asian and South American goods, only the law was preventing many American manufacturers from relocating overseas. NAFTA was the final act of selling the American blue collar worker down the river. Bad turned into worse because not only were real wages falling, which had already been the case for 20 years, but the jobs disappeared altogether. By the end of the decade, at which point we realized that the NASDAQ was not in fact going to make us all rich, the smoke-and-mirrors required to delude the middle class into thinking they could afford the American Dream became overwhelming. To keep people buying homes, cars, vacations, and shopping binges they couldn't afford there remained only one solution: abandon all lending standards and start loaning money like drunken sailors.

The alternative, of course, was letting people realize and get angry about the fact that they couldn't afford a house, a car, copious consumer goods, and all those other things their folks enjoyed.

Then the financial industry had the bright idea to make investment instruments out of their bad lending decisions, theorizing that if shitty assets were packaged together they somehow became value-packed financial assets. This part and what happened next is already familiar to you. We all discovered that A) mortgage-backed securities are a bad idea since banks can make more mortgages on demand and B) a credit House of Cards only stays upright as long as debtors can minimally service their debt. When mass prosperity falls to the point at which people can't even make minimum payments, well…that's the endgame.

This isn't in my usual style; I'm too exhausted after a 48-hour interview (in Texas; rural Texas) to cite, link, and otherwise provide the kind of evidence that I think good arguments need. Nonetheless I wanted to express my dissatisfaction with the common wisdom about the important economic events in the post-War era (the Arab Oil Embargo, the end of the Cold War, supply side economics, the dot-com bubble, etc). Fuck all of that. The economic history of the past sixty years is the story of B-29, the instrument with which we flattened whatever parts of the industrialized world Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany had left standing. Subprime mortgages are no more explanatory of our current problems than that first, fateful meeting between Curtis LeMay and Robert McNamara when they looked at the B-29 and said "Hey, I know what we could do! Let's get these things in the air 24-7, and…."

Six decades later, here we are.

BLAH

Posted in Quick Hits on March 25th, 2009 by Ed

Well, American Webhosting went down for about 8 hours last night. As I have no time other than late evenings to do this, you get nothing today. I am in a bad place (not figuratively – literally, I am someplace very bad right now) and occupied with bad things. I'll try to hit you up later today.

Check out Mike and the Putz.

TEASER

Posted in Election 2008 on March 24th, 2009 by Ed

Mike linked this Portfolio article by Joe McGinniss last week. It's about Sarah Palin's complete lack of interest in doing her job (hard to get excited about playing in the minors after a few weeks in The Show!) and the growing bipartisan, statewide consensus among Alaskans that she is a sociopath. Highly recommended reading.

It has emboldened me to make a prediction for 2010: Sarah Palin is going to lose her re-election bid if the Democrats can run anyone better than Mickey Mouse. She'll probably have a challenger in her own primary. People in the sticks love nothing more than when one of their own Makes It. And they hate nothing more than when their Superstar decides she is too good for them anymore. Oddly enough, I find the potential trainwreck ending of her political career sad. If anything it's a sign of the utter ineptitude of the GOP leadership and specifically the d-bags who were in charge of the RNC last year. The party had something in Palin; they had something and they blew it.

When was the first time you heard Barack Obama speak? If you're like most people, even his fellow Illinoisians, it was his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. At the time I thought it was sad, a pitiful sign of how bad things were for the Democrats – a guy who hadn't even been elected to the Senate yet was their keynote. But it was strategic and it worked.

What happened was simple: Obama's Senate run in Illinois provided the first opportunity for a lot of the national Democratic leadership to meet him. And they met him. And they said "Holy shit, this guy is going places. We've got a hot prospect; let's make sure we develop him correctly." So rather than ramming him onto the Kerry ticket like idiots in an effort to save a failed campaign, they gave America a 30-minute preview of the future at the Convention. Then what happened? He disappeared. Being a Senator he obviously wasn't totally anonymous, but he faded into the background. He didn't become the leader of his party or the explicit Future and Savior. He went to the Senate and toiled for a few years, and all most Americans remembered was "Wow, who was that guy from the convention? With the goofy name?" It's the oldest marketing trick in the book. Give 'em a teaser, then make 'em wait. Let some excitement build. Let voters who were disheartened about the Democratic Party think, "Maybe next time will be different…"

Palin's Convention speech was the high point of her political career. Being good in controlled settings (i.e., reading a prompter) she created an almost universally positive impression. Republicans practically shit themselves. Democrats were terrified that this new weapon was going destroy them. But the GOP wasted the great opportunity she represented.

If they were smart – and let's be emphatic about the fact that they weren't – they would have said "Here's this rube, this inexperienced, ambitious young candidate with camera skills. She doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground, but we can teach her." They could have had her give that speech and then disappear for four years, back to the void of Alaska, while they taught her how to sound like she isn't retarded in response to basic campaign questions. She would have left on a high note and then let the buzz build. By 2012…well, to be honest she probably would have been a formidable candidate if the coaches and strategists succeeded in teaching her anything.

Instead they saw a glimmer of potential and immediately foisted her on McCain in an effort to save an absolutely moribund campaign. Not only did McCain not want her but she was nowhere close to ready. She couldn't answer basic questions coherently. She knew almost nothing about politics that weren't Alaska politics. But rather than having four years to learn it they tried to cram it into her overtaxed brain in a matter of days. The result was an unmitigated disaster. They turned the GOP's Next Big Thing into what is likely to be, when all is said and done, one of the biggest disasters in the history of presidential campaigning.

I don't like Sarah Palin but I recognize potential when I see it. She could have been everything to the GOP that Obama was to the Democrats. Now she's in free fall and the only way she'll win the 2012 nomination is if the GOP decides that Obama is unbeatable and no one wants to run. The party is short a savior and Palin is on her way to becoming a combination of a footnote and a punchline. It didn't have to be that way.

K-LO GETS THE FJM TREATMENT, SAYS SHE DESERVED IT

Posted in Rants on March 23rd, 2009 by Ed

I usually try to space out the FJM series, as the entries tend to be a little overwhelming to read and labor-intensive to write. But K-Lo (a.k.a. Kathryn Jean Lopez) wrote something so stupid that were I in the midst of summiting Everest I would stop for an hour, possibly losing a toe in the process, to FJM it. K-Lo is a prominent wingnut and "neo-feminist." You know, the kind of "feminist" who thinks that gender discrimination is fictional and women need men to protect them. Yeah. One of those. Get ready. The treatise in question is "Confusion Reigns as Tradition Decays." If the use of the word "tradition" wasn't enough to send a chill down your spine, then you don't know K-Lo.

According to an article in the Boston Globe, an informal poll taken among 200 teenagers

It's "informal", i.e. not a poll and in no way indicative of a random sample of public opinion, and it was asked to high school kids. Boston high school kids. We're off to a great start.

has revealed that almost half of them blame the pop star Rihanna for her recent beating, allegedly by her boyfriend, Chris Brown.

According to the internet, these two people of whom I've never heard are celebrities who churn out the kind of brainless, ProTooled pop music that makes my soul weep with boredom. And he slapped her around. Well that's not good.

It's just one survey. But it's very bad news.

I agree. Domestic violence is a big problem, and male-on-female DV is especially prominent.

Everyone take a big mouthful of your favorite beverage at this point. You'll know why in a minute. Also, if you have a snooty English butler, ask him to bring you a monocle. One that you don't mind breaking. So, you know, not your good monocle.

And feminists are to blame.

*spit take*

*monocle shatters*

Whhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

Wait, I thought it was Chris Brown's fault. Oh, you mean the childrens' survey responses. That is the fault of feminists? K-Lo, I've been to two county fairs and a Carrot Top show yet this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Think about that. Carrot Top.

I don't say that to bash Gloria Steinem or whomever the most easily blamed feminist would be at this point.

Heavens no! This doesn't read at all like a desperate attempt to go off half-assed on feminism.

I say it so we can collectively get our heads out of the feminist fog in which we've been lost.

OK, just to make sure we're all still on the same page: because of feminism, people think male-on-female violence is acceptable. Right? That's what we're doing here? OK.

I appreciate the kids wanting Rihanna to take some responsibility for her situation. She's an adult, after all, as is Brown. If Rihanna is getting beaten, she should get the heck away from the person responsible. And as a best-selling artist, she has the financial freedom to extricate herself from her trouble.

Well, the psychology of domestic violence is a lot more complex than that but, yes, as uninvolved observers it's pretty easy for us to say "Easy fix: dump his ass."

But where's the outrage over what Brown is accused of doing?

Well you could have written a column expressing outrage, but instead you wrote this idiotic piece of hackery about "the feminists." Maybe that's where all the outrage went.

There's something off when so many people blame the victim, not the aggressor.

But nothing wrong with blaming amorphous concepts like feminism. Also, "so many people" is a handful of Boston high school kids who probably got their ideas from their parents who got them from Rush and dipshits like you, K-Lo. So yeah, something is wrong alright.

As one male reader e-mailed me: "The only times I can remember my father hitting me was for fighting with my sisters. I resented it as a child, but I told my father, shortly before he died at age 90, that it was the best life lesson he taught me of many."

No, the best life lesson would have been "Don't hit people."

He added: "I am stunned by the number of women, young and old, abused by men. There isn't a hell hot enough for men responsible for the injustice of abusing women." Now there's an appropriate reaction!

Is there some evidence that this is not how a lot of people reacted? Seems like most of the people for whom this would not be the first reaction would be the religious "Woman obeys man" nutjobs in your neck of the woods, K-Lo.

What has happened — and what Rihanna and Chris have to do with Gloria — is that by inventing oppression where there is none and remaking woman in man's image, the sexual and feminist revolutions have confused everyone.

OK, checking in again to make sure I follow the argument. Women cried wolf, making up oppression where none existed, and now no one cares when the wolf comes. The wolf, in this case, is Chris Brown. So women cried Chris Brown one too many times and now Chris Brown is really here.

It's natural for us to expect men to protect women, and women to expect some level of physical protection.

Your entire argument would make sense if this statement was true, but…stay with me, because this is the important part…it's not. There's nothing natural about Protestant social conditioning. Your kids think this is the natural Order of Things because you tell them it is.

You know what you sound like, K-Lo? Like an Uncle Tom. Like a black person in the 1800s standing up for white people and agreeing that subjugation is the Natural Order of Things. And that being a slave isn't really so bad. In fact, your argument is virtually identical. Just find-and-replace the nouns.

But in postmodern America, those natural gender roles have been upended by academic jargon and political rhetoric.

Let's summarize the historical record of America: the K-Lo version. Everything was great for women. There was no oppression. Then feminists invented some, and now everyone's confused because they said there was some when there wasn't and now when there IS some (which, according to the original K-Lo hypothesis, there isn't) we react incorrectly.

The result is confusion.

I'll give you that. I am fucking confused.

And perhaps, too, a neo-feminist backlash.

I'm tired and my butt itches. I think I'll have a nap when I'm done protecting women and bench pressing this 1991 Hyundai Scoupe.

The need for some return to sanity forms the subtext of an article in this month's issue of O, the Oprah Magazine. The article explores how some women find themselves abandoning heterosexual relationships in favor of partners of their own gender.

"Subtext" in the hands of conservative columnist means "Seeing what we want to see and making up a right-wing moral where none exists or is intended." Like that bitchin' list of the greatest conservative rock songs.

One recently divorced academic describes what attracted her to a future female lover. "She got up and gave me the better seat, as if she wanted to take care of me. I was struck by that. … she took initiative and was the most take-charge person I'd ever met."

Scientists at the University of People have just discovered that people like it when other people are nice to them. This anecdote confirms and strengthens their findings.

This article isn't about closeted homosexuality;

No, this isn't about K-Lo's kids. Yet.

it's not asserting that there's a vast population of women who were born to be with women, and are instead trapped in unfulfilling heterosexual arrangements. No, this article, despite its celebration of unconventional lifestyles, boils down to something much more orthodox:

Being with someone who respects you: unconventional. Well, that probably is an unconventional idea for a lot of daily K-Lo readers.

Femininity and masculinity mix well together.

So do cockroaches and garbage.

And women are taking masculinity where they can get it, even if it's in the arms of a fellow female.

They could probably get it from a man – IF we accept the premise that these women are honestly hetero – if we didn't raise men to think that A) women are weak and need male protection and B) that the real force working against women isn't misogyny, it's feminism.

I wonder if reinforcing traditional M/F, Dominant/Weak gender roles has anything to do with encouraging domestic violence? Nah…that's a stretch. It's probably feminism's fault.

Last year, author Kathleen Parker published a book called "Save the Males." What a perfect title, what a necessary cause, I thought at the time.

Yeah, Susan Faludi did that 10 years ago.

As Parker wrote: "For the past 30 years or so, males have been under siege by a culture that too often embraces the notion that men are to blame for all of life's ills. … While women have been cast as victims…men have been quietly retreating into their caves."

I try to be responsible for fewer ills. That seems a better response than retreating.

Men kinda are to blame for all of life's ills. Certainly more than half. Men brought you the Inquisition, the Holocaust, every war in recorded history, nerve gas, clip shows, the McRib, and Menudo.

Sometimes, of course, women are victims.

Yeah, but…they kinda want it, don't they? I mean, look at how they're dressed.

But while feminists whine about false pay gaps and oppression that doesn't exist,

Huh.

Well, this would be more credible if pay gaps were not an easily demonstrable fact, discrimination and harrassment in the workplace were not rampant, and this column weren't written by the National Review's Token Female Columnist.

we ignore the mess that we created by rejecting nature and tradition

"Tradition" means doing things the way they have been done previously. Which is, you know, just about the worst possible argument for continuing to do something unless it has proven to be very successful. At this point I should note that enforcing traditional gender roles has always worked well.

We've so confused ourselves that almost 100 teenagers in Boston are excusing Chris Brown.

And for my next act of contortion, I'll explain how Jesse Jackson causes racism! How abortion causes child abuse and breast cancer! How liberal judges cause genital warts! How BK Chicken Fries make your sons gay!

Why wouldn't they?

Well, maybe they wouldn't if their parents raised them to understand that people don't solve problems by hitting other people. And that hitting someone else, absent self-defense or an invitation to do so, is unacceptable behavior among adults.

Men and women are equal, but we've conditioned ourselves to expect a lot less of men, and maybe too much of women.

I've never felt that "Don't hit women" is either too much or too little to ask of men. But we do ask too little of men overall. For instance, we don't ask them to recognize that gender discrimination is a serious problem. Instead we write columns claiming that oppression doesn't exist and making excuses for widespread victim-blaming.

"Save the Males" needs a follow-up: A Woman's Memo to Her Sister Feminists: Let's Call the Whole Thing Off. Or instead of another book, why don't we just reboot?

Good idea, K-Lo. Go ahead and write that book. I'm sure your kind of "feminist" – a motley crew of homeschool moms and housewives who can justify the occasional black eye – will eat it up.

Was it really that bad when men didn't have to pretend to be what they weren't and women didn't have to try to reinvent themselves to make up for what they lost?

You're right. Things were better for women before the 1960s. Things were good. Reeeeeeeeeeal good.

This is the heart of the entire modern conservative movement: the constant, nonspecific yearning for the way "things" "used to be" back before The Fall, before the 60s came along and we lost our way. They yearn endlessly for a trip back in time to a fictional Norman Rockwell America that never was, a world in which everything was perfect. Men worked, kids were apple-cheeked, women were pregnant and baking, and everyone was white (OK, there were Coloreds, but they Knew their Place). You know, the good old days. Back before feminism caused all this confusion. Back when women were never beaten or, if they were, society unanimously condemned the act and no one, absolutely no one, looked upon spousal abuse understanding the urge and approving of the act.

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