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“Surrendered Dads”

[ 8 ] August 28, 2016 |
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Tiny Tyrants

Home Game may be an entirely readable account of Michael Lewis’ experiences raising three young children.  It may be perfectly awful.  Toby Young’s ode to the MRA movement surely sheds no light:

In the most affluent parts of the Western world, a historic transference of power has taken place that is greater than anything achieved by the trade-union movement, the women’s movement or the civil-rights movement — and it hasn’t even been extended the courtesy of being called a movement. Fathers, who enjoyed absolute authority within the household for several millennia, now find themselves at the beck and call of their wives and children.

Stop here. It’s a short essay, and you can’t fault the author for failing to undertake a historical ethnography of the development of the family in what we may broadly call “Western” society, but the term “absolute authority within the household for several millennia” is every bit as empirically accurate as declaring that the Earth “enjoyed an absolutely central role in the universe for several millennia.” It takes no account of how families actually functioned in agrarian economic conditions, or of how the industrial revolution changed those conditions, or of how mothers and fathers have negotiated (and imposed) roles and responsibilities for millennia.  One man’s funny throwaway line is another’s lazy nonsense.

We’re also, of course, going to set aside all of the instances in which fathers abandoned the title of benevolent authoritarian, in favor either of actual abandonment, or of explicit, tyrannical, domestic violence, executed upon the bodies of the woman and children they were notionally protecting.

Indeed, most of my male friends are not fathers in any traditional sense at all; they occupy roughly the same status in their households as the help. They don’t guide their children through the moral quandaries of life — they guide them to their extracurricular activities from behind the wheel of a Dodge minivan.

Isn’t this also what moms do?  And doesn’t that mean that Young views women, and their appropriate position within in the home, as falling under the term “the help?” Is it genuinely useful, at this point in American political and social life, to publish an essay written explicitly from the point of view that family relations ought to be constituted on authoritarian terms, with the man acting as (albeit distant) tyrant over the woman and the children?

“Home Game,” Mr. Lewis’s account of becoming a father to his three children, begins promisingly. “At some point in the last few decades, the American male sat down at the negotiating table with the American female and — let us be frank — got fleeced,” he writes.

The poor sucker agreed to take on responsibility for all sorts of menial tasks — tasks that his own father was barely aware of — and received nothing in return.

He did get the opportunity to spend time with his children, a reward which can surely be overstated, but that many fathers consider quite valuable. It’s apparent that Young profoundly dislikes his own children, and would rather not be forced to spend any time around them (see the vasectomy comments below). I know it sounds crazy, but no small percentage of fathers enjoy, and derive great satisfaction from, the daily demands of active parenthood. It turns out that many of the moral quandaries of life can, in fact, benefit from conversations conduction from behind the wheel of a Dodge minivan.

If he was hoping for some gratitude, he was mistaken. According to Mr. Lewis: “Women may smile at a man pushing a baby stroller, but it is with the gentle condescension of a high officer of an army toward a village that surrendered without a fight.”

American men now find themselves in the same position as Gorbachev after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Having done the decent thing, and ceded power without bloodshed, they are now looked on with good-humored disdain. (Full disclosure: I am a father of four living in London and can confirm that the situation for British men is no better.)

This is, indeed, good stuff; men have voluntarily given up their position as domestic tyrant, and with hardly any work at all! The participants in successive waves of feminist thinking surely view their victory as both complete, and bloodless; men will now grudgingly drive the children to soccer practice!  Break out the champagne and bon bons!

This is good stuff — the American male is a pitiful creature — and it is followed by plenty of examples from Mr. Lewis’s own life. No sooner has his first daughter arrived than he is transformed into a surrendered husband, forced to take her to a succession of “Mommy and me” classes. At one point, while living in Paris, he ends up in a swimming pool with “a dozen scantily clad Frenchmen,” all accompanied by their newborn babies. It isn’t long before he has been thoroughly brainwashed by the politically correct mumbo-jumbo that passes for wisdom in “parenting courses.” “I understood that my job was no longer to force the party line upon Quinn,” he writes. “My job was to validate her feelings.” His wife, who used to look up to him as a glamorous writer, begins to view him as an “unreliable employee.”

The notion that a member of the family should someone be involved in the family, and (worse) should be asked to educate himself about the basics of child development, is surely beyond the pale.

“Home Game” ends with Mr. Lewis’s description of getting a vasectomy — at the request of his wife, naturally. Having submitted to metaphorical castration, he decides to go the whole nine yards. It reminded me of the final scene in “The Stepford Wives” in which we see the lobotomized Katharine Ross wandering down a supermarket aisle. Mr. Lewis laughs off the indignities of the surgical procedure, as he does all the other humiliations that his wife and children inflict on him, but beneath all the jokes there’s a sense of loss, a nostalgia for the time when fathers weren’t objects of ridicule. This is a profound and far-reaching change in American family life, and it deserves more serious consideration from one of America’s finest writers.

Because having determined that the American man has been utterly subjugated by wife and children, the appropriate response is surely the production of additional children! One begins to wonder about the good sense of allocating authoritarian power to such irrational, status-paranoid, emotionally driven creatures in the first place.

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You can’t wear that!

[ 114 ] August 27, 2016 |

Two sentences confirmed my most cynical beliefs about the apparel industry.

Most glaringly, Banana Republic has acknowledged that it struggled to sell a blazer last year because women couldn’t fit their arms into the armholes. Yes, a venerable clothing brand that raked in $2.65 billion in 2015, manufactured a jacket that was physically unwearable.

Tsk and for shame. What silly ladyfolks thought they had the right to put their arms in armholes? Didn’t they know the correct thing to do was buy the jacket and then drape it over their shoulders? Or better yet, go to the nearest Who the Hell Named this Store? Banana Republic, give a clerk a wad of cash and leave without causing a fuss.

No really, how did this happen? Did BR use a fit model with arms the size of straws? Or did it decide fit models were too expensive, someone came up with some random numbers and called that a measurement?

No doubt it was something even dumber, but all the CEO would admit is that errors sort of happened in the general vicinity of the jacket, so I doubt I’ll ever know, but I will assume not giving a fuck was a key cause of the problem.

As an aside, the article touches on what I think is the biggest problem with women’s clothing – It is about as durable as single-ply toilet paper, so that the retail price of 99.9% of all women’s clothing is at least a gazillion percent more than what it took to make it.

Did Banana Republic think women wouldn’t notice that some of its dress pants cost $98, but are unlined and made of synthetic fabric? Did Anthropologie think shoppers would blindly plunk down $88 for a shapeless T-shirt dress made of spandex and jersey?

Sure, why not? The market demands that women buy shoddy clothing that loses its shape when subjected to such extreme conditions as body heat or humidity above 30%, so we damn well ought to!

 

What’s on Your Vagenda Today?

[ 118 ] August 27, 2016 |

A little levity for your Saturday

Also put this wonderful Sara Benincasa answer to “Why Am I So Fat?” on your vagenda.

Supply Chains in Burma

[ 40 ] August 27, 2016 |

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H&M can say that it’s outraged by finding out its clothes are made by 14 year olds in Burma all it wants to. But when H&M decides to contract out with clothing manufacturers in Burma, it’s doing so knowing damn well that there is basically no labor oversight in that country and that children are going to be doing much of the work. Given that child labor has been the open goal of the textile industry for over 200 years and that the labor conditions of nations like Burma, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are well known, H&M has no space to claim ignorance or outrage. Or they do have space to claim it because avoiding claims of responsibility and day-to-day control over things like working conditions (not cost or on-time delivery of course) is the central point of the textile supply chain. H&M cares about one thing–cost. So long as they get the clothes for very cheap, the executives are happy. Now, a story like this coming out might spawn some sort of concern precisely because it threatens profit if consumers are turned off, but it’s not like these executives give two whits whether Burmese girls live or die. H&M absolutely could do plenty about this. It could agree to international inspections, binding fines for violations paid by the company, etc. But at least from what I can tell, it is not agreeing to any of this. Nonetheless, American companies are significantly worse and openly callous. The European social climate demands a little more of their corporations on issues like this so there’s a little more hope here than there is for Walmart or Target, who flat out don’t care.

Donald Trump’s Race-Baiting of the Hour

[ 110 ] August 27, 2016 |

What a guy:

NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin Nykea Aldridge was fatally shot Friday pushing a child in a stroller in a Chicago.

Less than 24 hours later, Donald Trump said her death was evidence that African-Americans will vote for him in November.

As always, there are ways in which Trump’s bluntness is relatively unusual. But the underlying idea — African-Americans will leave the DEMOCRAT PARTY PLANTATION because BLACK-ON-BLACK VIOLENCE is not exactly rare in Republican circles.

In other Trump news, this picture of the doctor who wandered out of a Paul Thomas Anderson movie to to take 5 minutes writing up a report declaring Trump the healthiest presidential candidate in the history of history itself is the sole redeeming factor of his campaign:

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Above: the Cuervo Gold, the fine Colombian, make tonight a wonderful thing

Volkswagen and Its Supply Chains

[ 62 ] August 27, 2016 |

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Supply chains exist so that corporations can acquire necessary materials without holding any responsibility over conditions of labor, environmental management, logistical headaches, or anything else. They exist to protect the parent company from liability. So it’s hardly surprising that Volkswagen would respond to the discovery of their vast mendacious conspiracy to avoid American emission law by trying to push costs down the supply chain. Because VW doesn’t want to lose profit, it’s seeking to limit costs down the line. But there is a limit to how much this can happen. In order to reduce costs, VW and other companies have already often reduced their suppliers of products to one. So when a company that makes car seats and transmission parts for VW told them to jump in a lake, VW had to halt production entirely in some of its German plants, which no doubt will cost the company even more money. Couldn’t happen to a nicer company.

Will Hillary Clinton Listen to Progressives?

[ 185 ] August 27, 2016 |
Bernie Sanders, left, speaks with Hillary Clinton during a break at a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Bernie Sanders, left, speaks with Hillary Clinton during a break at a Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

As Daniel Marans points out, while a lot of rank and file Bernie Sanders supporters think of Hillary Clinton as the Hildebeest rubbing her hands together to start coups in various Latin American nations while lighting cigars with money donating from Wall Street cronies, veteran liberal insiders are optimistic that a Clinton administration will be quite progressive.

Other observers ask a separate, but related question: If Clinton is courting Mitt Romney voters, neoconservative thought leaders and Bernie Sanders supporters alike, whose core interests will she fight for once in office? She cannot please all of them at once, and with progressives lacking an alternative in the two-party system, she is more likely to view their priorities as expendable, the theory goes.

Progressive optimists respond by noting that Clinton has not actually compromised her domestic policy platform to appeal to these “swing” voters. She still supports expanding Social Security, a public health insurance option, debt-free college and raising the federal minimum wage to at least $12. Most crucially of all, Clinton’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive trade accord negotiated by President Barack Obama, has only grown stronger over time. She now promises to oppose it before the election, after the election ― a tacit reference to the lame-duck session of Congress ― and as president.

The Democratic nominee is not coy about mentioning these plans on the campaign trail. Clinton put them at the center of her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, as well as in a key economic policy address in Michigan last week.

Even if she doesn’t believe in progressive policies, she isn’t going to want to cross the Democratic Senate caucus of 2017, a very different world from the Democratic Senate caucus of 1997.

Warren was also not yet a senator when Obama took office, depriving her of the platform in the media that she has used so effectively. One can easily imagine Warren, a higher-profile Sanders and allies like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) taking their case to cable TV if a Clinton appointment is not to their liking.

“Clinton does not want to see multiple Antonio Weiss-style fights,” a senior aide to a progressive House Democrat said, referring to an Obama nominee for a top Treasury post. Weiss withdrew himself from consideration after Warren launched a public campaign against him.

As a banker, Weiss had worked at a firm that specialized in tax inversion, a technicality through which companies reincorporate overseas to avoid U.S. corporate taxes. (Obama has since named Weiss to a role that did not require Senate confirmation, where he supervises White House policy for the Puerto Rican debt crisis.)

A key test for Clinton will be whether she re-nominates to the Supreme Court Merrick Garland, Obama’s centrist nominee who is stuck in limbo due to Republicans’ refusal to grant him nomination hearings.

The aide to a progressive house Democrat said Clinton is “even cool on Senate Democrats’ push to get her to renominate Garland,” indicating she is acutely aware of progressive trepidation about Garland.

Obviously, a Clinton administration is going to be very good for progressives in some ways. And it’s going to be disappointing in others. Sometimes it might be infuriating. But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The primary reason the Bill Clinton years were generally bad was that Democrats in Congress and the general public as well were far to the right of where they are today. Today, as was very much not the case 20 years ago, there is an active left-wing of Congress and there is an active and growing left wing in the general public. Had Sanders not put up such a strong challenge to her, I don’t think Hillary Clinton would realize this easily and there would be some Weiss-style fights in 2017. But now she’s quite cognizant of the left. So are her advisors. This is one of the many good things that will come from the Sanders campaign.

The Republican presidential race this week, last year

[ 12 ] August 27, 2016 |

Confusion 8/22/2015

If Trump is nominated, then everything we think we know about presidential nominations is wrong.

Delusion 8/27/2015

When the race settles down and begins to gel, the operating thinking is that Republican voters will also begin seriously weighing electability, which will begin to lead to Trump’s demise.

Slimy hypocritical fucks 8/25/2015

On Tuesday, Fox News chief Roger Ailes said in a statement Donald Trump should apologize for a tirade of tweets aimed at Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

SNAFU then, really.

Nat Turner

[ 138 ] August 27, 2016 |

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We recently passed the anniversary of Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion. And we should remember it and celebrate the bravery of Turner and his followers to fight back against the horrors of slavery.* However, not to be overly pedantic, but the idea, as this piece in Time suggests, that we should take Nat Turner’s “confession” to a white man as literal or even anything close to truth, is highly questionable. We actually have no solid evidence that what was written down was anything Turner said or even really if even represented Turner’s thoughts. The individual who published it was a slaveholder named Thomas Gray. As was common in the southern elite class, Gray had a lot of debt and needed cash. He may well have fabricated all of it in order to pander to southerners freaking out about Haiti coming to Virginia. I’m surprised Time didn’t at least note this. It’s not super helpful to simply repeat lines from the Confession as the true words of Turner without noting that they may well not be.

*And please no one say that Turner and his followers were bad people for killing future slaveholding white children. As if we have the right to judge slaves for fighting for their freedom because they didn’t do it in a way to gain the approval of 21st century white liberals.

Two great tastes that have no place together

[ 48 ] August 27, 2016 |

Brownies and hummus.

No.

I need a beer to wash the thought of how this tastes out of my mouth.

I’m someone who would sample every flavor of ice cream in this article, even the laurel. But garbanzo beans have a very strong odor and flavor which is why they should be mushed up with garlic and tahini and lemon. Not chocolate or vanilla.

At any rate, it serves as a reminder that while it is necessary to LOL/gag at the foods people voluntarily ate in the days of yore (because those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to eat creamed prunes cabbage n’ macaroni casserole), there’s no shortage of modern-day maniacs who shouldn’t be left alone with a food processor.

Today in the Stadium Scam

[ 75 ] August 26, 2016 |

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The Raiders want to move to Las Vegas. They are their partners, i.e., the always lovely Sheldon Adelson, are demanding the city pay a mere $750 million for the stadium, a number that will no doubt increase once the inevitable cost overruns take place. Adelson’s lackey says this $750 million is a non-negotiable number.

The Raiders and Sheldon Adelson: a match made in Hell. Where in fact Al Davis is still pulling the strings over this whole deal.

Anti-Union Universities

[ 19 ] August 26, 2016 |

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There’s a forum at N+1 about yesterday’s NLRB decision overturning the Brown decision and granting graduate students at private universities collective bargaining rights. Want to point you to the contribution by Gabriel Winant and Alyssa Battistoni. Universities use the same arguments against unions as any other employer, plus simply claiming that graduate students aren’t workers.

The crux of the 2004 Brown decision had been that the relationship of graduate students to the university was primarily educational, and as a result did not fall under the purview of legislation designed to govern economic relationships. What a line to draw—how could anyone who works at a university fail to cross it? In overturning Brown, the Columbia decision states plainly what we’ve argued all along: “a graduate student may be both a student and an employee; a university may be both the student’s educator and employer.” The decision similarly demolishes, with reference to empirical evidence, familiar arguments that a union of graduate employees would worsen the quality of education, suck up inordinate amounts of valuable time and resources, or pose a threat to the continued functioning of the university. In other words, Columbia rejects the idea that academia is a uniquely un-unionizable industry (an idea that many employers have of their own industries: Target, for example, warns workers that “ if the unions did try to organize our team members, chances are they would change our fast, fun, and friendly culture”).

Pretense prevails among those who run the institutions. Deans often feign surprise at graduate student complaints, and claim not to notice the thousands petitioning them every semester. With impressive sophistry, administrators manage to argue that unions would at once destroy academic life and fail to accomplish anything. Columbia’s administration, for example, both warns that the union could break the budget (“all schools may have to make difficult decisions to reflect these new fixed costs”) and cause wages to fall (“Stipend levels, remuneration, and benefits may change; there is no guarantee that they will increase”). The message they’re sending is that change is impossible—that there’s no way to make your voice heard.

To us, then, perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the NLRB decision is its explicit recognition of our years of organizing outside the protection of the law, and its argument that this work in itself is admissible testimony for change. Unlike our deans, the federal government has heard our speeches and petitions, and listened to us as adult citizens capable of advocating for ourselves:

It is worth noting that student assistants, in the absence of access to the [National Labor Relations] Act’s representation procedures and in the face of rising financial pressures, have been said to be “fervently lobbying their respective schools for better benefits and increased representation.” The eagerness of at least some student assistants to engage in bargaining suggests that the traditional model of relations between university and student assistants is insufficiently responsive to student assistants’ needs.

When your employer insists that none of your actions matter, it is gratifying to learn that, through years of struggle—sometimes bitter, often seeming fruitless—you have moved the gears of the federal bureaucracy.

Really, this is a hugely important decision for academic labor.

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