Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Twitter Thread Vol VII - F*ck The White House Correspondents Dinner

Yesterday, Cheeto announced he was not going to attend this year's White House Correspondents Dinner. The dinner, affectionately known as "Nerd Prom" (h/t @anamariecox) is a staple of "official" Washington. In recent years, it has taken on the air of the Oscars, with a full red carpet, hours of "pre game" discussion on cable news, and a parade of Hollywood celebrities rubbing elbows with the Wolf Blitzers, Chuck Todds, and Rachel Maddows of the world.

What the WHCA also is as an elite, totally-removed-from-the-struggles-of-ordinary-Americans exercise in self-congratulatory behavior. A pigs-sitting-around-the-table-at-the-end-of-Animal-Farm spectacle where the lie of Washington is exposed for all to see. The fighting, the filibustering, the hours of talking head debate on TV is the political equivalent of professional wrestling - highly scripted, with the characters acting out their roles, except here it is the lives of those ordinary Americans being toyed with, not some story line where evil is triumphing until good prevails. 

As I noted in the below thread, the median income at the WHCA is surely far greater, perhaps as much as an order of magnitude greater, than that of "ordinary" Americans. And when politicians and reporters, celebrities and movie stars don their tuxedos and formal gowns to congratulate each other on what swell people they all are, it could not be a louder "screw you" to the rest of us if they didn't scream it all out in unison.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Review - Future Sex

Google “photos of Times Square from the 1970s” and you will be flooded with images of garish neon light and promises of available women. The peep shows and porn shops that Martin Scorsese made iconic in Taxi Driver were of a distilled prurience that avoided the hippie vibe of free love and did not have the patina of bourgeois hedonism found at Studio 54. Previous generations were scandalized by women wearing dresses that showed a bare ankle, Paris in the 19th century was a hotbed for behind-closed-doors sexual experimentation, and there are probably a few cave drawings that would be called pornography even today. It is to say that sex, in its many and varied forms, has long obsessed us even as we often try to wrap a plain brown bag around it and pretend it does not exist. 

Emily Witt is not the first writer, nor will she be the last, to delve into this duality, and the cover of her book Future Sex is its own 21st century Times Square billboard - a woman with a smart phone between her arched legs, a dull glow emanating from it, beckons the reader to open the front cover and peer inside. Witt is a game tour guide through the nether regions of sexuality. She attends sex parties, porn shoots, and Burning Man, engages in “orgasmic meditation,” and dabbles in webcam play. Through much of it, Witt maintains an authorly distance, and avoids judgment of her subjects, be they the couple who make a living having sex on the Internet or another twosome who have a revolving door of lovers in an open relationship. 

So long as monogamous relationships are the norm, anything written about anything other than that will stand in contrast and therefore be titillating, an object of curiosity, and “other.” So it is here. Witt has some winning lines like “The panda gang bang took place deep in the basement of the Kink armory …” but as with much in today’s society, there is little new under the sun, it is simply easier for a light to be shined on it. Polyamory, eastern philosophies as a gateway to sexual freedom, and pornography are not new and while the Internet has afforded people new chances to remunerate their sexuality or explore it in novel ways, the underlying experience, be it of BDSM, cosplay, group sex, or any of the other rainbow variety of sex that Witt explores and discusses, was not invented yesterday. 

What has changed (and mostly for the better) is society’s attitude toward that otherness. What was once shielded behind a curtain or considered sin has largely been mainstreamed. Witt reaches for broader themes because of this newfound reality. The definition of sex work is much broader than it once was so it is easier to connect, say, economic dislocation and the downturn in the job market to people webcamming their sex acts as a way to make money. Similarly, young, affluent techies in Silicon Valley are searching for a different plane of existence through the use of MDMA while plotting their sexual trysts on Google calendars for their polyamorous partners to study and consider. This may seem novel, but other than the technological wizardry and substitution of MDMA for LSD, such behavior would not have been out of place in the Haight-Ashbury of the late 1960s. 

In part, this book is also pitched as Witt’s own exploration of what relationships and sex mean to her, a woman in her early 30s, but she can be an unreliable narrator. The book begins with her taking a months-long hiatus from the single life in Brooklyn by moving to San Francisco, but at some point along the way, she demurs at having sex at an orgy because she has a boyfriend back home, while her trip to Burning Man is occasion to have sex with a casual friend and a man she meets there called Lunar Fox. Because the book’s time line is never explicitly given, the temporal shifts left me confused as to whether Witt was a woman exploring the possibilities of alternative dating options or an anthropologist jotting down field notes. Maybe it was a little of both, but as a meditation on “future sex” I found the book less convincing. Today’s world may be glossier and filled with young people whose pockets are lined with wealth earned in the tech book, but at base, the desires are no different than the seamy Times Square of 40 years ago.

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Twitter Thread Vol VI - Media Gaslighting

There has been a lot of media pearl clutching at some of the more radical policies Trump has instituted. Oddly, those same members of the media ignore the fact that their wall-to-wall smearing of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, the days-long stories about her pneumonia, the weeks of coverage of her email server, Benghazi, and on and on, helped elect Trump. And oh yeah, reporting on email the media knew to be stolen by the Russians didn't help either ... 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Twitter Thread Vol V - No Really, What's The Matter With Kansas?

After starving his state of revenue by massively cutting corporate and personal taxes, Gov. Sam Brownback took to Twitter to brag about a tax increase he vetoed. Under Brownback, Kansas has conducted a real-time experiment in the so-called "supply side" economics theory that first infected Washington, D.C. when Reagan became President. The idea is simple - cut taxes on the "job creators" (read: rich people and corporations) and the massive spike in economic growth will make up for the lowered tax rates. Only problem? It does not work. At the federal level, the growth was never enough to make up for the reductions, not to mention those pesky commitments to things like Medicare or Republican fetishes with military spending cost money. Oh, and loose regulation also encourage morally questionable decision making. It's no coincidence that the Savings and Loan crisis, two Wall Street crashes and three recessions happened under our last three Republican Presidents. Anywho, enjoy this little thread ...

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Twitter Thread Vol IV - Supply Side Economics 3.0

The idea that "deficits don't matter" if famously attributed to Dick Cheney quoting Ronald Reagan. This morning, a story from AXIOS indicated that Republicans are prepared to go to the supply side well for a third time (Reagan 1981, Bush 2001/2003) selling the same snake oil (or is it voodoo economics?) that a spike in production and economic growth will make up for the hole that's about to be cut into the Treasury's revenue stream. If it is true that "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" what happens the third time around? 

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Twitter Thread Vol III - Defunding PBS, NEA, AmeriCorps & Legal Services

Collectively, these programs are hundredths of one percent of the federal budget, but hey, people like PBS, college graduates serve in their communities, and lawyers defend poor people, so let's defund them. Makes sense. Can you feel the economic anxiety, everyone? 

A Twitter Thread Vol II - David Petraeus & The Media

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Twitter Thread Vol I - Jim Comey & The Media

So, @owillis has encouraged people to blog their threaded tweets. Here's my first entry: