Subscribe via RSS Feed

“American Horror Story:” Where Are We Now? Oh, Roanoke

[ 41 ] September 19, 2016 |

American Horror Story is a show with a mixed record. On the one hand, I think it’s one of the boldest, most transgressive shows on the air. I think it’s far scarier than most R-rated horror movies. I think it’s artful, I think it’s beautiful to look at. I think sometimes it overreaches. And recently I feel it crossed a line by depicting a brutal rape (and extraordinarily gory murder scene). (TRIGGER WARNING FOR MY STORIFY BELOW.)

If you read the Storify you’ll see I missed seasons 3 and 4. Three I missed because the witches’ coven didn’t interest me as much as past settings and because it aired the year I was taking care of a toddler by myself while hubby was overseas. I attempted to watch Season 4 but was so freaked out by the punch-you-in-the-face-scary clown murdering someone in broad daylight I could not make it past the first episode. Don’t know if I’ll ever go back to try again. This is what I mean by overreaching. Sometimes AHS’ violence, sex, and mixing of the two is downright traumatizing.

Currently, I’m watching season 6, which seems promisingly to be the perfect balance of the off-the-charts signature AHS creep factors and poignant psychological drama. I am also streaming season 5. Its premiere episode knocked me on my ass, and frankly I’m not sure how I feel about it. It will be interesting comparing and contrasting these two seasons as I go forward.

Any of you watching AHS? Have thoughts?


“Have the Jamarcus Russell hit Tehran hard”

[ 82 ] September 19, 2016 |

We have a name for the USAF’s new bomber:

I propose that individual B-21s be named after great Raider quarterbacks of yore:

It’s five o’clock somewhere

[ 514 ] September 19, 2016 |


Updated below

JFC as the kids say.

I’m well aware that all along this particular poll has given Trump a better shot than the poll of polls. It’s been an outlier by several points over the average. Trump is now up seven in it. The big question of course is whether it’s an outlier because of a methodological flaw, or because it will turn out that it has a better method of prediction than the average of the rest of the polls. I don’t know anything about the technicalities of polling but I guess we’re all going to find out.

And yes I’m now officially panicked extremely concerned, and not because I think Trump is going to win, but because I think he has something in the neighborhood of a 30% shot of winning, which is genuinely terrifying. (Remember when everybody laughed at this 14 months ago? Good times!).

Part of what’s going on is, as Scott points out, the perverse and indescribably irresponsible normalization of Trump by the media. Why that normalization has happened is a complex and extraordinarily important question, to which I sadly don’t have any real answer.

The most optimistic possible take on the present state of the presidential election is that a huge percentage of voters are, to put it nicely, low information individuals who basically pay no attention to politics and vote for presidential candidates on the basis of roughly the same factors that lead someone who basically pays no attention to football to realize that if they live in the Denver area they should be rooting for the Broncos at a Super Bowl party.

Various less optimistic and more plausible hypotheses are just too depressing to consider. Anyway, Jon Chait does a good job of capturing how the present situation is, on one level, almost literally incredible to people who know what a cover three defense is:

Sometime around the end of summer, it dawned upon most Democrats, and the elite of both parties, that they — okay, we — inhabit a different political universe than does the rest of the country. In our world, Donald Trump is a surreal authoritarian buffoon whose presidency is too nightmarish to contemplate, except perhaps as an abstract intellectual exercise to bolster whatever argument one wishes to make about larger trends in American society. Hillary Clinton is deeply familiar, liked by some, loathed by many, and caught in a vortex of mutual paranoia with the news media that leads her into errors of secrecy. But her flaws, as the conservative but Clinton-endorsing pundit P. J. O’Rourke put it, lie “within normal parameters,” and disagreements within the elite feel small in the face of Trump. Envisioning him as the actual president of the United States seems to us like a category error, as if a Game of Thrones character were to show up on Veep.

But as the first of the presidential debates looms, the hard numbers simply do not bear out this reality. The website FiveThirtyEight gives Trump more than a four-in-ten chance of actually, for real, winning. The Upshot, the New York Times’ forecaster, puts it at a slightly more comforting one in four, which sounds low except that, as the model’s authors point out, this makes the odds of a Clinton victory about equal to an NFL placekicker’s chances of making a 49-yard field goal. Also, the kicker has pneumonia.

Update: There are a lot of good comments in this thread but I wanted to move this one into the OP:

I think it’s hard to express what a Trump victory would really mean to a liberal like me, so I want to try to lay it out below. And hopefully this will help people understand why, given the thinking below, even a narrow loss is a rather scary prospect.

Trump winning the election would not just be a policy loss. It of course would be that, but that’s a relatively acceptable outcome from a larger, worldview perspective. I understand that I live in a world where many if not most people disagree with me about various policy outcomes. And that’s fine. If Romney would have won, that would essentially have been the outcome. But Trump is different to me, for basically two very broad reasons:

1) Trump is completely incompetent. He doesn’t know anything. And yet he seemingly pays basically no price for this. As I said above, I can accept the fact that people really disagree with me on stuff. Totally fine. I understand I will lose arguments in a democracy. But the premise behind this, to me, has always been that the people who disagree with me should have some knowledge of the things *they* claim to care about. Like, I think Romney has shitty tax ideas. But he clearly has vast expertise in business. McCain? Not a fan of his foreign policy. But he *cares* about it and tries to have knowledge about it. Even if you go off the policy grid, and say that the real issue animating Trump fans is racism – ok. Pick an intelligent racist! Like, Pat Buchanan. An odious figure, to be sure. But he *knows things*. He’s spent his life trying to understand the best way to implement his ideas, and the effect they have on the world.

Trump is none of these things. He doesn’t know *anything*. And he clearly pays no price for it. I waver between wondering whether the voters *don’t know* he’s ignorant, or don’t care. I genuinely don’t know the answer here. I had a conversation with a conservative family member last week, where he brought up how embarrassing it was that Gary Johnson didn’t know what Aleppo was. I agreed that was bad, but then I mentioned that of course he understands Trump has no idea what Aleppo is either, right? My relative dismissed this out of hand, claiming that “of course” Trump knew what Aleppo was. I just live in a different world.

There are 2 options here – either the voters don’t *know* that Trump is staggeringly ignorant with absolutely no interest in critical things, or they don’t care. Frankly both answers sort of frighten me, and tear at my faith in the sustainability of our democratic institutions.

2) This one is less about Trump, and more about a systematic issue with our government, and that is that this election seems to be showing that the GOP has not, is not and never will pay any price for their procedural radicalism. While it’s not necessary to go through the whole litany of things that have happened since Obama was first elected, there have been a series of procedurally radical moves undertaken by the GOP: blanket filibustering in 2009-2010, the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, the government shutdown of 2013, and now we’re experience an unprecedented, ideological blockage of the Supreme Court. Many liberals, while living through this, have come to convince themselves that these sorts of overreaches would, in time, result in a backlash where people really got sick of this radicalism. Unfortunately, I think the opposite has occurred – rather than creating a backlash, our rigid partisanship has resulted in these actions being normalized. I mean, the fact that the GOP is blockading a Supreme Court seat just doesn’t matter at all. It has no play whatsoever in this election. I’d venture to say most voters neither know nor care about it at all. Same for the government shutdown, where the GOP had a wave election after doing this.

This one, unlike #1, is less of an existential crisis and more of me just being mad. If I misread the lay of our political landscape, so be it. If all those things I saw as “radical” were a gross misreading about how much the voting population cares about these issues, so be it. But unlike #1 above, this one sort of does hinge on why the feedback loop isn’t working. If it’s not working because people simply disagree with me about what’s important, then fine. I’ll lose that argument, live with it, and come back fighting the next time. As a liberal I hope we’ll learn the lessons and play the game better. But if it’s not working because people aren’t *aware* that this stuff has happened or that it’s not ordinary course, that’s a much larger systemic problem. The feedback loop in this scenario would be *broken*, as opposed to me merely misreading what people care about.

Egalitarian income growth: Why?

[ 77 ] September 19, 2016 |


Bucking recent trends, the wallets of the poor and least-educated swelled the most. Income at the twentieth percentile (meaning the level at which exactly one-fifth of the population earns less) grew by over 6%. The average income of households headed by someone who left school before ninth grade—typically reached at age 14 or 15— grew a fulsome 12.5%, compared with just 3.2% growth in those headed by someone with a bachelor’s degree or more. Just as the disadvantaged are usually the first to lose their jobs in a recession, they have been the last to benefit as the economy has recently closed in on full employment, argues Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think-tank. That also helps to explain a fall in the poverty rate from 14.8% to 13.5%—the largest annual percentage-point drop in poverty since 1999.

Link. Paywalled, but google it if you want to read the whole thing (never mind, seems to work now. Was paywalled when coming from facebook). When I first heard 2015 was an unusually strong year for income growth, I was mildly surprised at the relatively obust figure. But the egalitarian, inequality-reducing pattern of the growth was far more surprising. I’ve been teaching a kind of “intro to social science” interdisciplinary class the last few years on inequality, with a non-exclusive focus on efforts to explain current trends in economic inequality in the US in particular and the developed world more generally. The material I’ve been working with (think Hacker and Pierson, Piketty, Atkinson, Milanovic, etc.) And while these scholars differ in various ways in their account of the primary causes of growing inequality and the the kinds of policies needed to counteract it, it’s safe to say we haven’t exactly embraced any of the policies they recommend in any significant way. Pessimist that I am, I’m inclined to assume this is a one-off in light of larger trends, but that pessimism is bolstered by my lack of any compelling story to anchor any optimism to.

So what’s going on? If you’ve got any links to compelling explanations for the relatively egalitarian character of income growth, or a theory of your own, please provide. (In a facebook discussion, someone suggested we might be seeing the effects of various local and state increases to the minimum wage. This strikes me as a prima facie plausible explanation for strong income growth in the 20th percentile, but it’s hard to see it having this kind of impact on the 50th).

Relatedly, here’s a good piece about how economic inequality has been studied widely by economists and by Americans, but rarely by American economists:

Galbraith, for his part, says that he has found other American economists’ interest in the topic lacking. He has found that in American economics, there’s one accepted explanation for the growth of inequality: that globalization and technology created a world in which high-skilled people did well and others did not. If you come along with a different set of ideas, he told me, “you find that it is not open to any discussion.” When he has looked to publish papers and data with other explanations for rising inequality, he finds there’s no proper journal open to it.

Why is class conflict more taboo in the United States, a nation dreamed up with at least a bit of rhetoric about throwing off the rigid class structure of Europe? Michael Zweig, an emeritus professor at SUNY Stony Brook, says that American economists haven’t always shied away from social problems like class and inequality. But during the second half of the 20th century, he says, class was “driven from the discipline,” Zweig says. This is largely because U.S. economists focused on the market, always the market.

“In the American economics profession, the scope of economics as a field has been reduced to a study of the market, as though the market was the same thing as the economy,” he told me.

…..commenters are emphasizing the effects of a tight labor market, understandably. That also appears to be central to Jared Bernstein’s analysis (thanks for the link). I suppose I’ve been reflexively dismissive of the possibility of the low unemployment rate having this kind of effect, because we’ve not really seen any kind of recovery in labor force participation from the collapse, and a rising participation rate in response to low unemployment would counteract the effects of a tight labor market. It looks like I may well have been wrong about this, too.


[ 17 ] September 19, 2016 |


To open your week…

“…a smooth, untroubled expression on his face.”

[ 215 ] September 19, 2016 |


How Trump gets normalized:

“Everyone is saying, oh, is there a bromance between Vladimir Putin and all this stuff,” Fallon began, looking down at his desk. “And what is the celebrity nickname for you guys? Vlump, I thought of Vlump.”

“I don’t know him,” Trump replied, contradicting previous statements. “I know nothing about him really. I just think if we got along with Russia that’s not a bad thing.”

It was an extraordinarily low and depressing display of pandering, and it was tough to figure out. Did Fallon think being polite to a guest meant ignoring his past year of racist, sexist, Islamophobic rhetoric? Did he just not care? The jokes weren’t even good.

Anyway, it culminated with Fallon asking to play with Trump’s hair, while they’re both still “civilians.”

“The next time I see you, you could be the president of the United States,” Fallon noted, a smooth, untroubled expression on his face.

For a reference on how this can be done far better, here’s an old Letterman clip going around, in which he reflects on the fact that Trump is a racist and how it’s time to stop making lighthearted quips about his hair.

The basic dynamic of the race right now is that previously uncommitted Republican voters are shifting back to Trump, turning this into something vaguely resembling a “normal” election at the ballot box. Clinton remains favored because 1)the Democratic coalition is bigger and 2)with his threadbare campaign operation Trump is likely to under-perform his polls on Election Day. But Trump has a puncher’s chance, and the media’s acceptance of him as just another candidate who merely Does It like the Other Side is a major reason why.

Other from Another Planet

[ 134 ] September 18, 2016 |

Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark.
Castellanos is playing the whistle.
The Base can’t get enough red meat,
But it’s happy to gnaw on some gristle.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 49

[ 210 ] September 18, 2016 |

This is the grave of Ulysses S. Grant.


Ulysses S. Grant was a failure at basically everything in life up to the Civil War, rose out of obscurity and disgrace to lead the nation in the crushing of treason in defense of slavery (although Grant himself had married into a slaveholding family), became the nation’s most popular individual, served as an entirely mediocre president who was in awe of the wealthy and a sucker for the schemes of Jay Cooke that helped plunge the nation into the Panic of 1873, became a unfortunately vilified president by those who hated Reconstruction, and, in recent years, has become a wildly overrated president by those who want to reject the Dunning school of history. Ulysses S. Grant was a great general, a man with a decent but not great record on civil rights as president (he openly lamented the 15th Amendment by the end of his presidency), and has been batted around like a tennis ball by detractors and defenders. Ulysses S. Grant also liked whiskey.

Ulysses S. Grant is buried at the General Grant National Memorial, New York, New York.

NFL Open Thread: Are You Ready For Some EXOTIC SMASHMOUTH?

[ 182 ] September 18, 2016 |


A couple of commenters unearthed the most awesome quote ever:

I’m going to do the things that I’ve had success with since 2001, and I will continue to do that until someone stops us,” said Mularkey, who served as the Titans’ interim head coach for part of the 2015 season and is now their full-time boss. Statistics show that NFL teams are passing more than ever, with teams throwing an average of 20 percent more yards in 2015 than they did in 2005. But Mularkey has no intention of adjusting his offense to fit that new reality, or indeed even accepting that there is a new reality: “I know people say this is a passing league,” Mularkey said. “I’ll argue with that.”

Mularkey’s lifetime record is 18-40. Since his first year he’s 9-33. I think we can safely say it’s “stopped working.”

Also, as an addendum to my Rex Ryan post below, it should be noted that the #1 culprit in Buffalo isn’t anyone on the coaching staff but GM Doug Whaley. Dan Lavioe has the grim details here, but as Mike Tanier once put it Whaley’s philosophy seems to be to carefully study what Bill Belichick does and do the exact opposite: paying heavily to trade up in the draft, investing heavily in running backs, overpaying generic free agents. The Watkins trade was a disaster, not because it was unreasonable to think that Watkins was the best wideout in the draft — this was the consensus — but because nobody is good enough at projecting talent to be a first round pick’s worth of confident that Watkins was a substantially better player than Evans or Beckham or Cooks or Benjamin. If the Bills fire the Ryans and keep Whaley it’s hard to see things improving.

‘Give your evidence,’ said the King; ‘and don’t be nervous, or I’ll have you executed on the spot.’

[ 138 ] September 17, 2016 |

Uh-oh! Only the restraint of the next step in the GOP’s evolution stands between the NYT and complete disaster.


God help the Gray Lady if Trump decides to file certain affedavids alleging shenanigans in extremis!

The judge, by the way, was the King; and as he wore his crown over the wig, (look at the frontispiece if you want to see how he did it,) he did not look at all comfortable, and it was certainly not becoming.

Shut up and sing

[ 217 ] September 17, 2016 |

The Star Spangled Banner – an early draft.

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue. I read David Brooks, and must share it with you.


This column is directed at all the high school football players around the country who are pulling a Kaepernick — kneeling during their pregame national anthems to protest systemic racism. I’m going to try to persuade you that what you’re doing is extremely counterproductive.

I won’t say that no high school football players who are protesting racism read David Brooks. The kids of today have always been into all sorts of freaky stuff. However, I do think it is interesting that he decides to pretend he is addressing kids rather than adults. It could be an attempt to turn up the Concern without seeming such a condescending tool. (Unlikely, I know.) It’s far more likely that it’s a combination of chickenshittery and the RWs unhealthy obsession with minors. But there’s more. So much more.


When Europeans first settled this continent they had two big thoughts.

Let’s not bicker and argue about ‘o killed ‘o.

The first was that God had called them to create a good and just society on this continent.

The second was they needed lots of slaves to build it?

The second was that they were screwing it up.

But of course a man who can ignore the fate of thriving and diverse nations doesn’t hlower himself to mention slavery. He uses the word racism in the lede and he probably had to grit his teeth to do that. Discrimination? Forget it Jake. Protest is also confined to the lede because this is a column titled The Uses of Patriotism. To the Brooks of the nation – and I wish there were only one of him – patriotism is a series rituals that are supposed to make everyone feel good. (Hence “civic religion.”) And if an individual doesn’t feel good, that’s his problem.

He does get a little Good Negro/Bad Negro action in there.

Martin Luther King Jr. sang the national anthem before his “I Have a Dream” speech and then quoted the Declaration of Independence within it.

(Once more for the Teddy Bear Doc. King fetishists.)

Critics like Ta-Nehisi Coates have arisen, arguing that the American reality is so far from the American creed as to negate the value of the whole thing.

Who does Coates think he is, an European colonist?

Some more wanking because no matter who Brooks says he’s addressing, he’s really talking to himself and his fellow travelers.

When we sing the national anthem, we’re not commenting on the state of America. We’re fortifying our foundational creed. We’re expressing gratitude for our ancestors and what they left us.

Drear Sir,

Some of my ancestors left structural racism and patriarchy and to be quite honest, they just aren’t me. Is there a place where I may trade these items for something more useful, such as a glass hammer or a rubber crutch?

We’re expressing commitment to the nation’s ideals, which we have not yet fulfilled.

See? Protest during the National Anthem is inappropriate because the purpose of the National Anthem is to say We’ll get to it, one of these days. (Updated daily, naturellement.)

Finally, Brooks arrives where anyone could guess he was heading.

If we don’t transmit that creed through shared displays of reverence we will have lost the idea system that has always motivated reform. We will lose the sense that we’re all in this together. We’ll lose the sense of shared loyalty to ideas bigger and more transcendent than our own short lives.

If these common rituals are insulted, other people won’t be motivated to right your injustices because they’ll be less likely to feel that you are part of their story. People will become strangers to one another and will interact in cold instrumentalist terms.

That’s a lot of words to say We’ll give you something to cry about if you don’t sing the first verse of this song about that time the British came over here, created many employment opportunities for builders, carpenters, brick layers, painters and so on in and around D.C. and didn’t take Baltimore. And the American flag.

As a display of how privilege works, it doesn’t get much better than when the Brooks of America admit that they are violent, dimwitted tyrants who will turn on non-whites for any reason or none and stop right there. They’d cut off their feet if that’s what it took to keep them from stumbling upon the realization that this makes them horrible human beings who are in need of major repairs. Helluva drug and all that.

Rather than realize how foul he is and vomit all down his crisply pressed Oxford shirt, Brooks sticks to the script.

You will strengthen Donald Trump’s ethnic nationalism, which erects barriers between Americans and which is the dark opposite of America’s traditional universal nationalism.

If African-Americans protest racism they will cause “ethnic nationalism” a term that shows Brooks’ commitment to ignoring what people are protesting, any sort of historical context for said protest and being a vicious tool.

As an aside, does anyone think this daft fucker knows why Dr. King gave his I Have a Dream speech? I hope not.

I hear you when you say you are unhappy with the way things are going in America.

And this vexes Mr. Brooks who who knows blacks should be seen and not heard, unless they’re singing.

That Will Solve All Your Problems

[ 105 ] September 16, 2016 |


Yesterday, the Bills got absolutely shredded by noted Hall of Fame candidate Ryan Fitzpatrick (who has two excellent receivers and a good running back to work with, but still) at home, perhaps the most embarrassing instance of Rex Ryan’s disastrous underachievement as a defensive coach in Buffalo. Their response to this was…to fire the offensive coordinator? The oddness of the move is manifest:

And Roman accomplished this turnaround with a rookie 4th-round pick at QB and a stars-and-scrubs receiving corps whose star is basically never close to 100% (plus his track record involves taking Colin Kaepernick to a conference championship and a Super Bowl — with Harbaugh, admittedly, but he presumably deserves some credit.) As Cosentino says, this year you can make excuses because of the injuries and suspensions to the front 7, but that doesn’t explain the massive decline last year.

I wonder if the impetus for this was the disastrous 4th quarter sequence last night that pretty much sealed the game. Manuel came in under center, was stuffed on 3rd-and-short, and then they tried the hard count that had drawn the Jets offside last year. It didn’t work, of course, and rather than run the play they decided to waste a timeout. Did they need this timeout to put an exotic play into place? Nope — they came out of the timeout to…put Manuel under center and run into the line, which the Jets stuffed almost as if they knew exactly what was coming. This timeout turned out to be crucial, because it allowed the Jets to run the clock down to under 20 seconds after the Bills got a TD. Here’s what Ryan said after the game:

No, we tried to hard count them because we went in the other time on a five and we never got the first down. It was something that Greg (Roman) was going to go no-snap and then we figured we’d try to draw them on it and if not, we’d use a timeout and that’s what we did.

Maybe Ryan was upset because it was entirely Roman’s stupid idea to decide ex ante to waste a timeout in the extremely likely event that the well-coached Jets defense didn’t fall for a trick they had already seen before. I doubt it — unimaginative, repetitive GROUND AND POUND seems more Rex than Roman, and I’m not sure that Ryan has had three timeouts left at the two-minute warning once in his NFL career — but who knows. Even if that was Roman’s decision it’s hard to justify the decision to fire the coach who would appear to be the best-performing on the staff.

And, of course, this smells all the worse because Rex brought in his brother, whose most recent coaching gig involved coordinating a defense that was the worst in the league by 15 points of DVOA. (For the uninitiated, 15 points is yooge, the difference between the Denver and St. Louis defenses last year.) And that was hardly the first terrible defense he had presided over. Can you imagine Belichick (or Carroll or Tomlin or Arians or the Harbaughs) making someone with that track record their assistant head coach just because they were related? I talked earlier in the week about Casey Stengel’s definition of loyalty. Bringing in a bad coach to assuage your brother’s ego is the opposite of that.

I do have one piece of good news for Bills fans: at least when Rex gets fired after the year he apparently won’t be replaced by Jeff Fisher.

Page 5 of 2,378« First...34567...102030...Last »